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How to Better Deal With Grief

We life insurance brokers have the dubious distinction of dealing with our clients in perhaps their most upsetting moment: at the death of a family member or close business associate.

Other financial professionals help clients at other life events: the birth of a child, the purchase of a house, marriage, inheritance, even a disability.

But those of us who sell life insurance are front and center when the insured passes.

True, we bring “good news”, of sorts. We deliver cash in the form of a policy benefit. Other business people have their hands out for payment: funeral homes, cemeteries, hospitals, doctors, creditors. We put money in the hands of the survivors. That is a good feeling.

But it is nonetheless tough. Who really knows how to deal with grieving people? It is not a fundamental part of sales school. For that matter, who really knows how to grieve? People certainly find ways – they have no choice. But what can we learn that can make a difference when that time comes? It always will. How can we prepare?

Dr. Kenneth Doka has written extensively on this topic. His research is a goldmine of helpful information for people dealing with grief, and for those who help people do so. His interview in pyschotherapy.net is especially rich.

I will share with you one special nugget from that interview. He talks about how people find a spiritual dimension to the grieving experience, even if they are not religious. It spurs them to social action. He uses as an example the founders of America’s Most Wanted, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving:

 They may not be religious, but inevitably it’s a spiritual experience, because it has to do with issues of meaning and transcendence.As an aftermath of death, people may experience growth in skills, they may have new insights, new priorities in their life, a renewed spirituality—there’s lots of changes that can occur. Again, sometimes they can go on and use these losses to make very significant changes. I think of John Walsh, host of America’s Most Wanted, whose son Adam was kidnapped and ultimately found decapitated. When he first realized his six-year-old son was missing, the police took a very nonchalant attitude and they said, “If he’s still not here in 24 hours, we’ll go look for him.” He then went on a crusade to change the way we as a society responded to the issue of missing children. The woman who founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving again used her grief to change the way we looked at drinking and driving in the US. It’s very different now than it was 30 years ago. Even teenagers are aware of the fact that there are real complications if you do this. So sometimes grief can be a spur to significant social action as well. 

John Walsh in particular is a hero of mine. He has dealt with the heart-breaking murder of his son in a way that continues to help people the world over. He gives us all strength to persevere.

Who are your heroes? How have they helped you? Have any helped you deal with your grief?