With mass shootings fresh in the nation’s cross hairs, it’s more important than ever to test our emotional intelligence about grief—and learn how to help those who are mourning the loss of someone they loved.
Why is this test important? Because we all play a direct role in each griever’s ability to survive the journey. The more support one receives, the better they do in the long haul. A griever who has little to no support can become stuck, resulting in millions of dollars in lost wages, loss of health, loss of family, and worse.
Following is a multiple choice Grief Literacy Test to see how much (or how little) you understand about grief. Wondering how your family and friends would score? Pass this test on to them after taking it yourself.
For each question, choose one of the four choices that best describes how you would react in that situation. When finished, add the numbers representing your answers together to see your grief literacy score.
Your coworker just lost a teenage daughter in a car accident. What do you say to him?
- I avoid him altogether.
- I tell him to look at the bright side, they have other children and can always have more.
- I awkwardly admit that I have no idea how he feels and pretend I need to leave for a meeting.
- I listen, offer lots of support, and hug frequently.
Your employee recently lost her young son to an illness. When should she return to normal?
- By the time she returns to work.
- Within 6 months.
- After the first year.
- She’ll never be the same.
Your sister lost her husband last year, and still cries frequently. How do you react?
- I avoid her altogether.
- I get impatient and tell her it’s time to move on.
- I offer to set her up on a blind date or suggest she try on-line dating.
- I offer tissue and a warm hug.
Your neighbor recently lost her daughter to suicide, and her beautiful yard is now overgrown. What should you do?
- It’s her yard and she should get out of bed to take care of it.
- The fresh air will be good for her, so I might hint that it’s become an eyesore.
- I might offer to help her, but I won’t do it for her.
- I gather up my garden gloves and tools and just get to work. She won’t have the energy to tend to her yard for a very long time, and I like the exercise.
Your friend lost a son to homicide two years ago, and the son’s birthday is next week. Will you acknowledge it?
- His birthday doesn’t mean anything to me.
- No, because it’s been two years already.
- I think it’s more important to distract my friend from thinking about it.
- I’m aware that it is a painful time. I’ll help my friend find a meaningful way to honor her son, and offer a hug every chance I get.
Your coworker’s daughter just died of a drug overdose. Should you say something?
- It was a drug overdose, so it doesn’t matter.
- No, because I’m too scared my own child will do the same.
- I feel bad, but don’t know what to say so I will probably just mumble something about how tragic it is.
- I would tell her that I’m there for her, hug her frequently, and take personal time to research for possible resources that can help.
The holidays are coming up, and your widowed uncle is feeling sentimental. What are some ways you can help him?
- He is an old man anyway and will soon die, too, so I’ll leave him alone.
- I avoid mentioning his wife out of fear that I might remind him that she is gone.
- I don’t mention his wife, but I do make him a batch of their favorite cookies.
- I mention his wife a lot, give him every opportunity to talk about her, and offer him frequent hugs.
Your brother lost his wife. You just lost your neighbor. Are they the same?
- I don’t care that my brother lost his wife. My neighbor was my best friend, and my pain is the only thing that counts right now.
- My brother and his wife argued a lot, so I think my loss is worse.
- If my loss feels this painful, his loss must be terrible, too.
- All losses should be respected and honored without judgement or comparison, for love and loss come in many forms.
Do you think closed Facebook groups for grievers are helpful?
- Those groups are nothing more than one big pity party.
- I don’t understand why those groups need to be closed, but I’m glad I don’t have to listen to their sad stories.
- I don’t understand their purpose but if they help, then that could only be a good thing.
Those groups are wonderful because they offer a free, safe place for grievers to express their emotions, which is one of the first step towards healing.
Do you think grief support groups and gatherings are worthwhile?
- Absolutely not. It’s nothing more than a pity party and huge downer.
- I don’t know anything about it, but it must be pretty depressing.
- I can’t imagine that it would offer anything fun, but it helps people, then that’s good.
- I’m thankful all those people share their journeys of loss and hope so openly. It helps people feel less alone, and gives them hope that they can survive.
How well do you understand the grief journey?
- I don’t need to understand it. Grief is a part of life, so what’s the big deal?
- I believe it’s a 5-stage journey, and if someone doesn’t experience those stages, then they’re doing it wrong.
- I believe that every loss is different, and that each griever may experience different stages as they move through their journey.
- I believe that every grief journey is as unique as one’s fingerprint, no two are alike. I believe that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and that the journey sometimes feels like a never ending roller coaster on steroids.
If you scored 44: You are a fully grief literate, compassionate role model for how to support those who are mourning.
If you scored 30-43: You don’t fully understand the significant effects a devastating loss can have, but your compassion and open mind are a wonderful start.
If you scored below 30: You are shamefully illiterate. But there is hope for you. Because no words will fix grief, simply memorize and apply the following three steps to every griever you encounter:
- Step #1: LISTEN
- Step #2: HUG
- Step #3: Repeat steps 1 and 2 above.
The idea behind this Grief Literacy Test is not to prove someone else’s illiteracy. Rather, it’s an opportunity to examine where we can improve our own.
It’s hard to see people in pain, and it’s human nature to avoid things we can’t fix. But when we learn to support those in mourning, we become givers of kindness and messengers of hope—gifts that will sustain them as they learn to live with their loved one in their hearts instead of their arms.