The Buddy System –– Mulkey Mason

The Buddy System

Courtesy Mulkey Mason, Denton LIVING WELL Magazine 

How many of us remember as little children being told “hold my hand while we cross the street” or “don’t go out there all alone?” These words of advice will stay with us our entire lifetime. I see husbands reach for the hand of their wife when crossing a street, not so much for safety but for the purpose of subliminally suggesting “you will be fine because I am right here.” As a Boy Scout, while working on our swimming merit badge, we were told if you ever go out into open water, always follow the buddy system. There should always be someone nearby in case you get in trouble.

As we grow and mature, something mysteriously happens to us though. For some reason, a large number of us feel as if we no longer need help (or at least are not supposed to ask for it). Society has somehow caused women to feel as if they should be independent and strong willed. As men, we develop the idea that we are never supposed to ask for directions or read instructions. I can personally attest to the fact that this is not accurate, as I can easily become lost in a shopping mall and have the most difficult of times assembling even simple items. When something bad happens in our lives, we naturally tend to want to shut down and isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. This is your mind’s defense system kicking into action. It is similar to an ostrich burying its’ head in the sand to hide. Everyone sees the ostrich, but since he cannot see them, they must not exist. We all know how off base that theory is, but believe if we hide our grief and sorrow, no one will know we hurt. This is terribly unhealthy, as grief shared is grief diminished. Grief not acknowledged will only grow and ultimately lead to depression, which will in turn manifest into a number of other unhealthy conditions.

When we learn of another person’s loss, we instinctively feel the need to do something to help ease their pain. The problem with grief is that most people feel awkward and unprepared in how to go about helping. The worst thing we can do is to avoid that person because of our own lack of confidence. This causes the person who is grieving to believe something is wrong with them for feeling sad. This feeling tends to cause the grieving person to want to rush through any type of memorial for the one who has died. Some people will try to avoid any acknowledgement that death has occurred at all in an attempt to get their life back to normal as quickly as possible. That never happens because the grieving person’s life cannot be the same again, as there will always be a void where the person who died previously occupied. A healthy end result for a grieving person is the final phase of grief––reconciliation. When the grieving person can accept that their life will be different because of the loss, but that different life will be ok, they have truly healed. This cannot be reached alone.

It is important to be the buddy for someone who has lost someone they love. Just telling that person you are sorry for their loss can open a door for conversation. The one thing every person who has lost someone wants to talk about is the person who has died. Allow them to tell the story of that person. In a way, this is allowing them to openly acknowledge that the person is no longer here and this will gently move them through the denial phase of their grief. Help that person find others who can relate to their loss. Maybe you have a friend who lost their spouse and can be introduced to the one who has just lost their spouse and they can share common feelings and listen to one another’s story. Grief support groups are also great ways to help a person move through the grieving process. The common thread to healthy recovery is being around other people. If you have lost someone close to you, please do not shut down and attempt to find healing from within. If you know someone who is hurting from the loss of a loved one, be their buddy. The buddy system worked well for us all in our early phases of life. It will serve us all well in the end.