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Open the Door – Learning #1 of 5 on How to Help Others Grieve in Caring Ways

Acceptance is hard.  Acceptance that someone you love has died; will never be walking through that door again.  Acceptance that your life will always be different, from this day forward.  In our household growing up, all time was defined as “before or after Mom died.”  Kind of like when you first become a parent, life is defined as “BC or AC” (Before Children or After Children).  That sort of monumental change.

Acceptance of change is hard.

Acceptance of help is hard for many of us, too.  I know it was and still is for me and my family.  We were taught to not accept help.  In We Lost Her, the book I recently authored our family’s grief journey when our Mom traumatically died in 1970, I describe this trait:

“I guess it was a German thing, not to want pity or hand-outs or outside help.  We were proud in that little particular way – we’d get by with what we had ourselves; we didn’t need anyone’s help and certainly not their pity.  We were Mueller’s….”

After much reflection on our journey, I recognize how wrong this is in respect to grieving.  We all need other’s help, especially to cope as we mourn our loss.  To allow ourselves to acknowledge that help would not only be good but was and is essential.  Help to mourn, to heal, to be able to make it through the day.   This learning is described in We Lost Her on page 170:

“If you are struggling with grief, open the door, and let others in to help and care for you, especially those who have traveled this road in their past. When all those people at the visitation and funeral say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” follow up and let them know how they can help.”

I am guilty of not following up.  I have such good intentions.  And when I call and hear, “Oh, we are all doing fine,” I’m lulled into that sense that perhaps that griever is ok.  But in my heart, I know better.  I know I should push a little – take some action to help them.  Help them accept my help.  Help them open that door to my small way of easing their grief, perhaps.

A wonderful gift, that I didn’t expect, from writing the book is hearing stories from local people that knew my Mom and our family, who had memories waiting to share with me.

One story I learned at a recent book signing was how a friend of Mom’s had tried to help, tried several times to come over and help us clean or cook or do whatever she could.  My Dad had insisted when she called that we were doing just fine.  He said, “We didn’t need anyone’s pity.”  Mom’s friend said were my Dad’s exact words on her third call to offer help, and she gave up trying.  She just wanted to help, to ease our grief in some small way, but my Dad didn’t open the door to her.  This had haunted her all these years – she felt so bad. She wished she’d persisted and found a way to do something for us.  Tears streamed down her wrinkled cheeks as she told me this and we embraced.

So, please be persistent and find a way to get that door open.

For those grieving, accept help – even if it’s hard to do.  Both of you will be blessed.

Heartlinks Grief Center helps people in what for many is the most difficult journey they will ever have – their grief journey. They help people grow through grief, grow to acceptance through their open door.  Walk through it if you need to.   They are here for you.

Be Blessed,


“We Grow Stronger Together”

Ellen Krohne, author of We Lost Her, available on

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