09/04/2013 05:46 EDT | Updated 11/04/2013 05:12 EST

"This Is What I Need!": On Being Direct After Loss

I learned early on when I was coping with my baby's death -- and again after my husband died -- that I had to be very specific about what I did or did not need from those around me. I used to be a shy person and often played the mediator in any situation involving conflict. As I was working through my grief process, however, I started to see that a new, bolder side of my personality was begging to come out. I could no longer walk a quiet or timid path through life. My path was suddenly filled with an inner fire and tenacity I never knew were within me. I became more courageously direct about every aspect of my life than I ever had before.

I started recognizing my need to be direct with people when I noticed that my family and friends were struggling in their attempts to help me. I knew they probably felt like fish out of water -- not knowing how to tend to my emotional wounds -- and so I believe it was helpful for them to hear me tell them things like "I need some water," "Could you please take that phone call for me?" or "I just need you to sit and listen to me right now."

I was very candid with my thoughts and feelings. I had been broken open in an emotionally violent way and felt nearly every part of my soul was on display already. And I was coming to realize which aspects of my life I could and could not take on by myself.

Sometimes it can be very difficult for those around us to understand what we truly need. Yet we who are grieving may think that people should be able to read our minds or come up with their own ideas of how to be helpful. This can put too much pressure on our friends and family, though. Unless they have been through a similar loss, they may not know the first thing about what to do. In the effort to save everyone extra hardship and frustration, you may just need to speak up sometimes. Most likely, your caregivers will appreciate your direction and resolve.

For some of you, being direct may not come naturally. It can take some practice, but just remember to listen to the truth that is within you. This will be your guide. Pay attention to that inner voice in your heart and mind -- the one that lets you know when something doesn't feel right -- and then communicate your needs clearly, whether in person, via email, or even in a handwritten note. You may even find this liberating.

Being direct is another way to take care of you. This is especially important if you've had to take on a lot of extra responsibility: overseeing finances, managing your home, or caring for children on your own. It is important to ask questions or admit that you need help with the things you've never had to do by yourself before. Asking family, friends, or professionals for their help or opinions can even be a way to empowerment. Each loss brings growth with it, and learning to handle new experiences and taking charge of your needs is part of the transformative process.

Love and Light,

Elizabeth B.

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