Six Reasons Mourners Don’t Ask for Help

by Larry Barber

If you don’t ask for the help that you need, chances are you won’t get that help, support or encouragement you long for.  That applies in all times in life, but it is especially true when you’re grieving the death of a loved one.

Often mourners suffer in silence wondering when someone will help them.  And often they resent those around them who they expected could tell what they needed without having to be asked or told.  People aren’t mind readers.  If you’re a mourner in need of help, ask for it.  Asking increases your chances of receiving help and your faster healing in your grief.

The specific reasons that mourners do not communicate what they are experiencing or what they need from comforters around them can vary from mourner to mourner.  Generally speaking though mourners do not communicate their needs effectively for these six primary reasons:


  • Mourners are afraid of looking weak or inferior.  In a culture that emphasizes independence, success and being able to pull yourself up by your own boot straps, mourners don’t want to be seen as needy, inadequate and incompetent.  When I meet initially with mourners in counseling sessions or support groups, I congratulate them for being brave and healthy enough to realize when they need to ask for help.It takes a lot of courage to share with others that you are struggling in your grief.  It also takes a wise mourner concerned about his or her health and well-being to know when to ask for support and comfort.  Mourners who need help, deny their pain struggle, and never seek help are the unhealthy ones in grief.
  • Mourners fear possible judgment or confrontation from others.  We mourners want others to think highly of us.  Mourners often remain silent in grief to give the appearance that all is going well and that they are just fine. The price that mourners pay is that they not only grieve in silence. They will also suffer needlessly in silence.Have you ever had your comforters brag on how well you are doing?  If they could only see what is going on inside of us, they would know that we mourners are in need of help.  If we fail to let them know or see the real us with real needs, we can make our grief journey more difficult.Other silent mourners fear that their asking for help may irritate or upset people around them.  The secret for getting the help you need is to share grief thoughts, experiences and needs with safe, compassionate people and in safe places.  Spend more time with safe people and less time with the unsympathetic people who have no clue or could care less what mourners are going through.
  • Mourners don’t want to be a burden to others.  Our lives have up’s and down’s.  At times in our lives, we are called upon to help, support and encourage others.  Then it is our time to give.  In the dark times of our lives, we need to call upon others to help support and encourage us.  Then it is our turn to receive.  In grief, we mourners have the opportunity and privilege to ask for and receive help from others with humility.Jesus gave an important principle for those who would follow His example of giving to others.  In Acts 20:35 He is quoted as saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  When we as mourners fail to ask for help or to accept help graciously, we rob our potential comforters of the blessing of giving help to us.
  • Mourners want to protect others who might be mourning also.  Close family members and friends who share a loss can be reluctant to mourn in front of others.  They fear their grief will make others sad or hurt.  In many cases, the other mourners are just as reluctant to mourn openly for the same reason.  The result is that no one mourns in a healthy way because everyone is avoiding the obvious.  Everyone is hurting and needs to process his or her grief.In families and friend support systems where mourning is done openly and in healthy ways, every mourner takes turn in receiving and giving support.  Everyone asks for and receives the help they need to heal.
  • Mourners don’t feel comfortable sharing what they consider to be personal business.   We mourners come from different family and cultural backgrounds.  Therefore, we have different styles of mourning and comfort zones in sharing personal grief emotions and experiences.With my clients in counseling and grief support groups, I always tell them that I want them to share what they need to share and what they feel comfortable in sharing.  I also emphasize that trying to go through grief alone can make their lives more complicated.When mourners no longer feel the pressure to “spill their guts” against their wills, they feel free to share what they are personally compelled to share.  They also feel comfortable in asking for the help they realize they desperately need to lighten their grief burdens.
  • Mourners don’t know what they need.  Early in grief when emotions are overwhelming, it is hard for us mourners to know what we need.  Therefore, it is hard for us to know what to request from our comforters.If we seek out supportive, sympathetic people and express our emotions to them without fear or restraint, they can know when and how to be there for us in our times of need.

Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT, author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise”

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