You just received a phone call from your best friend, Barb, to let you know her sister, Mary just died suddenly of a heart attack. What do you say? “Oh this is so sudden. I feel so bad for you, Barb.” “I will be right over.” When you arrive what do you say to your dearest friend, Barb? Nothing. Really, nothing? Yes, initially walk up to her, look her into her eyes as you have for decades and then reach to you right to give her a heart hug. Simply holding her for 30 seconds or longer releases oxytocin from the pituitary gland, lowering both your heart rates and cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress, high blood pressure and heart disease. In addition to releasing oxytocin, hugs also stimulate brains to release dopamine, the pleasure hormone. When she begins to pull away, so do you. The words will be different for each of us because each death is different. Our relationship to the deceased varies in intensity. The deeper our connection, the deeper our grief. “Oh, Barb, I am so shocked. I feel so sad.” “My heart hurts. I hurt for you, for Mary and the whole family.” “ I’ll miss Mary so much.” “I remember what Mary did when ___________(our basement flooded).” “Here is 7-UP and lemon juice that often clears this grief headache.” “ I’m here for you. You know I am up early so please call me when you get up tomorrow morning.” These very simple phrases are a reflection of your thoughts, beliefs, feelings and emotions. You have your own grief to feel so you can truly be a phone call away to listen. When you lean into your grief instead of pushing it away, you will have the energy to make fresh coffee, walk Barb’s dog and be a loving friend instead of a robotic, let’s just get this done drill sergeant. Loss and change are part of the cycle of Life. Grief is a natural consequence of loss. Remember, by simply showing up and saying what you feel, you are supportive and helpful enough.


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