Grief is a Hard Sell

February 16, 2024

“Let’s face it.  Grief is a hard sell.  What I mean is that the majority of people in our culture are not going to be interested in or motivated to hear or learn anything about death, dying, grief and loss until they have to.  Grief is just too morbid for those who are not experiencing loss.  Like my son says, “Everybody knows that death is there. But they all believe that death is something that always happens to other people and not to them.”

A sad fact is that most mourners even in the depths of their grief feel no need or motivation to receive formal help or knowledge about death, dying, grief and loss. Grief is way too painful, unpleasant and uncomfortable to hear about.  Talking about grief will just make them feel said and it won’t help is what they tell me.  I have always said no matter how much marketing you do for a grief support group, a grief seminar or grief counseling that you are offering, you will not get an overwhelming response.  Let’s face it.  Grief is a hard sell.

Grief should be a topic that is of interest to everybody.  Often I am asked by those inviting me to speak about grief and loss, “Larry, we need to know who your target audience is so that we can market your speech.  So, who is going to be the target audience?”

“Everybody,” I say as I smiled back to my host.  Suddenly they have a dumbfounded look on their face.

They reply patiently as if I misunderstood their question, “No, Larry.  Who is your presentation going to be targeted to?  Mourners or their caregivers?”

“Yes!” I say with patience and a smile back to them knowing they don’t understand my answer.  “You see, death, dying, grief and loss are topics for everyone – grieving people and their caregivers.  All of us are going to die, and all of us will say goodbye to people in our lives who die.  Therefore, everybody is my target audience.”

Yes, grief is a hard sell.  As long as people and the culture keep their collective heads in the sand denying the fact that death and grief happen every day and that one day death and grief will happen to them.  But why should we be surprised?  As Sigmund Freud stated mankind will always run from pain and run towards pleasure.  Grief is painful.  Therefore, we run from it making grief a hard sell.

Is there an answer to this marketing problem surrounding grief and loss?  Will mankind one day suddenly realize that knowing something about death, dying, and bereavement would be beneficial to helping people live successful and healthy lives?  I don’t know.  As things are now, probably not.  But I don’t think I will ever give up the hope that more folks will receive the information and help that they need to help them get through future periods of grief and sorrow in their lives.

In the meantime we who know about grief must continue to tell others who will listen important information about the workings of dying, grief and loss in order to help them through the rough times.  We who are mourners and have a history of loss are in a unique position to help the world of people and inevitable mourners at a time when they need us most. Be ready to help the person God puts in your pathway who is struggling with grief and that you can help.  Grief will never be easy, but with support from others, encouragement, and a little knowledge, grief can become easier.”

Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT, director of GriefWorks, CounselingWorks and KidWorks.

Larry is also the author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise”

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