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March Chaplain's Reflections

Portrait of Chaplain, Capt. Benjamin McEntire, with the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Jan. 10, 2013.
(National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

Portrait of Chaplain, Capt. Benjamin McEntire, with the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Jan. 10, 2013. (National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- "Living Through Grief"

Unfortunately for all of us, loss is a part of life. Most of us learn that at far too young an age, yet no matter our age, loss hurts. Whether it's through the loss of someone or something dear to us, or because of unjust harm we caused, grief comes to all of us. How we respond to grief when we experience it, makes a difference.

One of the first things we have to realize is that it's okay to grieve. I grew up in a culture where taking time to mourn was a sign of weakness, but today I know better! In order to be emotionally healthy, we have to accept that grief is natural and normal. When we bottle up the emotions that hit us during times of grief, they tend to come out in other ways and usually in ways that become a problem for us.

In order to fully recover from grief, we need to take time to lament. Many times people will think it strange that they still hurt months after a loss, when really that's completely normal. What's not normal is when others act as though hurting people should move on through their grief too quickly. Grief is a process and one that can vary person to person. There is definitely a point where a person does need to take steps to keep living and not let their grief trap them in despair and sorrow, but pushing others to abandon their feelings prematurely harms more than it helps. If you are a friend or loved one of someone going through a time of grief, there are things you can do to help them.

First, it's important to be careful to not say things that push them to get over their feelings before they're ready. We need to focus on listening and just being with them instead of trying to talk them out of their feelings. We rarely know what to say to someone experiencing deep pain, and even the best of words won't erase all of their feelings. Instead of offering words, it's usually best to let the person talk when they need to talk. Giving them a compassionate ear for as long as they need it is important.

Second, encouraging them to recall the good things about the one they lost helps them stay connected in a positive way, and focuses them on the joy they had. It's easy to think that encouraging someone to think about a lost loved one will upset them, but that's not the case. After all, they're already thinking about them and are already upset. Encouraging them to share the good things about their loved one is a way to remind them that the good times spent with their loved one was a blessing, and shifts them to happier thoughts.

Third, while listening can be just what is needed, sometimes just being with them can make all the difference. There are times of grief when words run out, but the need to connect is still strong. That's when your presence may be just what's needed to help lift them out of a place of pain. It's common for a person to not remember a word you or they said during their time of grief, but they usually remember that you were there when they needed someone to be there.

If you're grieving or trying to help someone who is, the SCANG Chaplain Corps is here to help. If you need a listening ear or someone to sit with you while you let go of pain, or if you're looking for advice on how to help a friend, family member, or co-worker, you can reach us at 803-647-8265. During off-duty times, contact the Command Post at 803-647-8238 and they can connect you with your unit's chaplain.

Also, please welcome our new 169th Fighter Wing Director of Psychological Health, Dr. Paul Wade. He is available during the week by calling him at 803-647-8085 as well as after hours through the Command Post. His office in located in the 169th FW Headquarters, building 252, down the back hallway in the office adjacent to the auditorium. Remember that the strong warrior always seeks help when needed. Thanks for being a wingman!