Support Someone Who's Grieving
When someone we care about is grieving it is human nature to want to find some way to ease their pain but grief is a healing process that should be allowed to run its course. You cannot stop the bereaved person's feeling of loss. However there are many things you can do to show you care and your condoling actions can ease their pain, providing support and comfort.
Do attend the funeral if possible. Even if you did not know the deceased your presence will show your support. You may feel awkward in knowing what to say when passing on your condolences at the funeral service. A hug is often enough, or if you did know the deceased, share a memory you have of them. This will give the bereaved some comfort knowing that their loved one touched the lives of others.
Do visit after the funeral service. It is usually those first 2 weeks after a death that the bereaved is surrounded with support, love and attention but the cards, flowers and visits soon dwindle away and family and friends carry on with their own lives. These can be the hardest times for those who are grieving. Do phone before visiting and be sure to let them know it's OK if they are not up to a visit. There will be times that they may feel the need to shut themselves off from the world and grieve alone.
Talking is seen to be one of the most beneficial factors during the grieving and healing process. Try not to fill conversations with lots of outside news as this will seem unimportant to those who are grieving. Be guided by their conversation. They need to know they are allowed to talk about their loss, often over and over again, to cry when they hurt and to laugh with no guilt.
When someone has experienced a death, acknowledgement for their loss and pain is often all that they want. To simply say 'I am sorry' or 'I have been thinking of you' can be enough. To say nothing at all or to avoid them can be hurtful and will only emphasise the feeling of isolation that may come with grief.
Acknowledgment for someone's loss can be expressed in many ways. Words often fail us during these times and we can feel so inept. Never forget the power of human touch whether it is a hug or a gentle arm around the shoulder. This can be a comforting way of communicating and can say so much.
We often make the mistake of saying to people in deep grief,' let me know if I can do anything to help.' They may be too lost in their sorrow to know what their needs are. Don't be afraid to just step in and help. Many years ago it was the done thing to surround someone who was grieving and just do things for them. If you are close to this person you probably know their life.
Prepare a meal or create a roster with a friend where once or twice a week you drop off a home cooked meal, something that can be frozen if needed. If your children attend the same school offer to take them and pick them up. Perhaps you can take the children out for a day. Grief can leave you feeling exhausted and to know their children are still able to enjoy life relieves the feelings of guilt. It also gives the bereaved some time to express their grief in private. Offers of help with house hold chores, shopping, running errands, are just some of the practical ways you can show that you care. This support is not only needed at the time of death but also in the weeks and months to follow.
Be sensitive to all those occasions we celebrate together as a family. Christmas, New Year, Easter, Mothers and Fathers day. Any times that would emphasise the absence of the person who has died. Keep in mind the deceased's birthday and the anniversary of their death. All of these times can be terribly painful and lonely for the one who is grieving. You may like to invite them to spend any celebrations with you, send a card or make a phone call to let them know you are thinking of them.
There is a misconception that we should not talk about the person who has died. We fear that this will upset the bereaved but it is said that recalling memories and funny stories of the deceased can give some comfort. Not to mention them can be hurtful. Almost as though they never existed but do remember to be guided by the bereaved person's conversation. Perhaps you have a photograph of the deceased that they do not have. Make a copy and have it framed. All of this helps in keeping their memory alive and strong.
Keep the invitations for outings going. The bereaved may decline your offers many times before finally accepting, when they feel they are strong enough, ready to re-enter the world and start enjoying life again.
Gently encourage the bereaved to take care of themselves. Grief can consume their every thought and be almost paralysing. Their needs will seem unimportant as the pain from their loss can affect their way of thinking and ability to function. What they once enjoyed will no longer give them joy. What was once important is no longer important. There is however things you can do to help them care for themselves and remind them of their needs while they are grieving.
Exercise can be beneficial, a gentle walk will also give them an opportunity to talk. With grief often comes loss of appetite. They may benefit from taking vitamin supplements. Give them a pamper package to show you care and that their needs are important. Source information to help them understand their grief, that what they are experiencing is natural and they are not going insane. This may be books on grief which can help them through the grieving process, a support group they could attend, a recommended counsellor or maybe natural therapies that can help with grief. If you have never experienced grief it is unfamiliar terrain. The support of family and friends is often what will carry us through our grief.
Grief has no clear beginning or end. It is a journey that will ebb and flow for the rest of our lives. We never get over the death of someone we love. We somehow find a way to live with it. It is important to let the bereaved know that they are allowed to grieve for as long as needed. Till that time comes. Where they are able to remember the one that has died, without feeling pain.
"Sympathy is two hearts tugging at one load"
Just as there is no right or wrong way to grieve there is no right or wrong way to support. There are however some things which should be avoided in saying, as these can be hurtful and minimise their loss.
Try not to say you know how they feel. No two grieves will be the same and each grief is as unique as the relationship they shared with the person they have lost.
Don't tell them they have to be strong. It is in the depths of grief that we are at our most vulnerable.
Don't tell them they need to get on with life. Life as they knew it is not the same and they will need to learn how to live their life without the person who has died. This takes time.
Don't say they had a good innings, they are at peace now or you are lucky to have had them for so long. No one feels lucky to lose someone they love.
Don't say it is Gods way or nature's way. Logical explanations are cold comfort when you are grieving.
Don't say you can try for another baby or you're lucky to have your other children. This only minimises their grief.
It is not comforting to remind the bereaved that at least they had a chance to say goodbye to the deceased. We never want to say goodbye to those we love.
Be mindful when telling the bereaved they are coping well. They may appear to be coping but it does not mean they have stopped hurting and are done grieving.
Do not compare their grief to others or make suggestions that someone else's loss was greater. This will only make the bereaved feel their loss is not a significant one and that they do not have the right to grieve.
Don't tell them they are grieving the wrong way or make suggestions about how they should be dealing with their grief.