In this time of need, we might know a lot of people who are going through a difficult time because of the loss of their loved ones. Often times we want to help and support them but we don't know what to say or do. You may be worried about intruding, doing the wrong thing, or making your loved one feel any worse during this tough period. Or maybe you believe there is nothing you can do to improve things. That's completely understandable. But don't let your anxiety keep you from reaching out to a grieving family or person. Your loved one needs your help now more than ever. You don't have to have all the answers, offer all the advice, or tell and do anything correctly. Simply being there for a grieving person is the most important thing you can do. Your presence and care will aid your loved one in coping with the pain and eventually beginning to recover.
Here's a list of things you can do to make grieving loved ones feel better:
It is important to first understand the stages of grieving
The more you know about grief and how it's dealt with, the more prepared you'll be to assist a bereaved friend or family member:
There is no right or wrong way to grieve
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to grieving. Grief does not always progress in a consistent and orderly manner. It can be a rollercoaster of emotions, with unforeseen spikes, lows, and setbacks. Everyone grieves differently, so don't tell your loved one what they "should" be grieving about and how they should be grieving.
Extreme emotions and behaviors may accompany grief
Extreme emotions and behaviors may accompany grief. Guilt, rage, despair, and fear are all common emotions. A bereaved person can scream to the heavens, obsess about death, lash out at loved ones, or sob uncontrollably for hours. Your loved one requires confirmation that their feelings are natural. Don't pass judgment on them or take their sorrow too seriously.
Grief does not follow a fixed schedule
Many people take 18 to 24 months to heal from a bereavement, but the mourning process can take longer or shorter for others. Don't make your loved ones feel obligated to pass forward or as though they've been grieving for too long. The healing process can be slowed as a result of this.
What to say to someone who is grieving?
While many of us worry about what to say to someone who is grieving, listening is often more important. When the deceased person is listed, many well-intentioned people avoid talking about it or change the topic. Or they try to avoid the weeping person entirely, recognizing there's nothing they can say to make things better.
The bereaved, on the other hand, need to know that their suffering is remembered, that it isn't too painful to discuss, and that their loved one will not be forgotten. They may want to sob on your shoulder one day, and then vent, sit in silence, or exchange memories the next. You can learn from the grieving individual by being present and listening compassionately. Simply being there for someone will make them feel calmer and comfortable.
How to speak to someone who is grieving-and how to listen to them
Although you should never force anyone to open up, you should let your grieving friend or loved one know that you are available to listen if they want to talk about their loss. When the name of the deceased comes up, don't shy away from talking about him or her.
Acknowledge the situation
For instance, you might say something like, "I heard your father died." By using the term "died," you'll demonstrate that you're more willing to discuss the mourning person's true feelings.
Express your concern
"I'm sorry to hear this happened to you," for example.
Enable the bereaved to speak about their loved one's death
Grieving people may find themselves telling the same story over and over, often in minute detail. Patience is needed. It's a way of processing and embracing the death to tell the tale again. The pain lessens with each retelling. You're assisting your loved one's healing by listening gently and compassionately.
Inquire about your loved one's feelings
Since grief's emotions can shift quickly, don't presume you know how the bereaved person is feeling at any given moment. If you've experienced a similar loss, please share your storey if you think it would benefit others. But keep in mind that grief is a deeply personal experience. Since no two people experience grief in the same way, don't pretend to "understand" what they're going through or relate your grief to theirs. Instead, focus on listening and asking your loved one to tell you how they're feeling.
Accept the emotions of your loved one
Let the grieving person know that it's okay to sob, get upset, or break down in front of you. Don't try to persuade them to change their minds on how they should or shouldn't feel. Grief is an intensely emotional experience, so the bereaved must feel free to express their emotions, no matter how irrational, without fear of being judged, argued with, or criticized.
Be genuine in your interactions
Don't try to make up for their failure by offering easy fixes or unsolicited advice. It's much easier to actually listen to your loved one or to say something like, "I'm not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care."
Be able to remain in silence for an extended period of time
If the grieving individual refuses to talk, don't press. They also find comfort in simply being in your presence. If you're at a loss for words, simply make eye contact, squeeze their hand, or give them a warm hug.
Offer practical help
Many grieving people find it difficult to ask for support. They might feel bad about being the center of attention, fear being a burden to others, or simply be too depressed to reach out. If a grieving person doesn't have the energy or strength to call you when they need something, make things easier for them by making clear suggestions instead of saying, "Let me know if there's something I can do."
Giving precise recommendations would make things simpler for them. "I'm going to the market this afternoon," you might tell. "Can I get you something from there?" or "For dinner, I made beef stew." When do you think I'll be able to get you some?"
If you can, try to be consistent with your offers of help. The grieving person will know that you'll be there for as long as it takes and can count on your attention without having to make the extra effort of asking repeatedly.
- Go grocery shopping or run errands.
- Stay at your loved one's house to answer the phone and receive visitors.
- Assistance with insurance forms and bills.
- Take care of household chores including cleaning and washing.
- Drive your loved one to their destination.
- Deliver some food items to them.
Offer continued help
Even after the funeral is over and the cards and flowers have ended, your loved one will continue to grieve. The length of the mourning process varies from person to person, but it usually takes much longer than most people expect. It's possible that your bereaved friend or family member will need your help for months, if not years.
Don't make snap judgments based on appearances
On the outside, the bereaved person may appear to be well, but they are in pain on the inside. Sayings like "You are so strong" or "You look so good" should be avoided. This places a lot of pressure on the person to keep up appearances and conceal their true feelings.
It's possible that the pain of bereavement will never go away completely
Keep in mind that life will never be the same again. You don't "get over" losing a loved one. The bereaved person may come to terms with his or her loss. The pain may diminish with time, but the sorrow may never go away entirely.
On special occasions, provide additional support
For your mourning friend or family member, some times and days of the year would be especially difficult. Grief is often reawakened by holidays, family milestones, birthdays, and anniversaries. At these times, be sensitive. Let the bereaved person aware that you are available to help them with anything they want.
Offer your assistance
Inquire on what you can do to assist the bereaved individual. Offer to assist with a particular mission, such as funeral arrangements, or simply be there to hang out with or lend a sympathetic ear.
Watch out for signs of depression or dependency
A grieving person may feel sad, confused, isolated from others, or as if they are going crazy. If, on the other hand, the bereaved person's symptoms do not gradually fade or worsen with time-this could indicate that normal grief has progressed into a more severe issue, such as clinical depression.
If you notice any of the warning signs listed below after the initial mourning period-especially if it's been more than two months after the death-encourage the grieving individual to seek professional assistance.
- Functioning in everyday life is difficult.
- Excessive resentment, anger, or remorse.
- Neglecting personal hygiene is a major no-no.
- Abuse with alcohol or other drugs.
- Withdrawing from the company of others.
- Feelings of hopelessness all the time
- Hallucinations are a form of delusion.
Continue to show your love in the long run
Maintain contact with the grieving person by checking in, stopping by, or sending letters or cards on a regular basis. Your support will be more important than ever after the funeral is over and the other mourners have left, and the initial shock of the loss has worn off.
These are things one must never say to a grieving person. Its not only insensitive, it will perhaps make them never open up to you about their feelings. So even if your intentions may be pure, it's best to avoid such statements.
1. "It's all part of God's plan"
This cliche can irritate some people.
2. "Take a look at all the things you have to be grateful for."
They are aware that they have reasons to be grateful, but they are unimportant at the moment.
3. "Now he's in a better place."
This might or may not be believed by the bereaved.
4. "Now that this is out of the way, it's time to get on with your life."
The bereaved will be unable to move on because they believe it would mean "forgetting" their loved one. Moving on is, after all, much better said than done. Grief has its own thoughts and moves at its own pace.
Statements that start with the words "you can" or "you will." These assertions are just too directive. Instead, you might say "Have you thought about..." or "You might try..."