How To Help Someone Who Is Grieving

When someone has experienced tremendous loss, it may be difficult to know what you can do to help. Often, it can feel uncomfortable and may even seem that nothing you could do would make any difference anyway. While you may feel out of your depth when it comes to supporting someone who is grieving, support is almost always needed and is helpful, when it’s done in a loving and respectful way.

Remember, everyone grieves differently, and someone’s grief may not look like what you’d expect or what you’re used to. The following tips can be adjusted based on the unique grief process of your loved one so that you can give them the support they need at the right time.

Understand the Process

The better you understand grief and the process through which most people go to get through it, the better prepared you are to offer help. In general, there are common stages that most people experience when grieving, but it can be unpredictable. One person may take longer in a different stage than someone else, and some people may experience more extreme emotions or behaviors than others. The stages of grief are as follows:

  • Denial – shock, confusion, avoidance, distraction
  • Anger – rage, embarrassment, irritability, sarcasm
  • Bargaining – over-thinking, guilt, fear, insecurity
  • Depression – crying, hopelessness, despair, not eating or sleeping
  • Acceptance – being present, adapting, vulnerability, wisdom

Most people do not go through the stages of grief in a linear way. It’s more likely that they will experience the stages multiple times and at different points throughout the process before reaching acceptance. And keep in mind, acceptance doesn’t mean that someone won’t feel sad about their loss or that they won’t have strong emotions or trauma any more. Acceptance is re-orienting oneself to a new reality.

The length of time that someone will grieve does not follow a set timetable. For many, the bereavement process may last around 18 to 24 months, but some may grieve longer and some shorter. It’s important to never tell someone that they need to move on or that they shouldn’t be grieving any more. Doing so can slow down their healing process and make them feel as though they’re doing something wrong when they are not.

Reach Out

It’s easy to assume that someone who is hurting may not want to talk about their loss or simply wants to be left alone. However, this is rarely the case. Instead, reaching out shows that person that you care and that you’re there for them. You don’t need to try to force a conversation onto someone who is grieving, but you should not avoid talking about their loss for your own comfort or because you think they don’t want to talk about it.

Not sure what to even say when you reach out to someone? You can keep it simple while still making it meaningful. Consider the following suggestions of what you could say:

  • Acknowledge the situation – I just heard that your mom died
  • Ask how they are doing – How are you really feeling today?
  • Express concern or condolences – I’m so sorry that this happened to you
  • Offer support – Let me pick up groceries for you this week
  • Be willing to sit silently – Don’t say anything! Just listen.

If the loss is recent, remember that you may not get a response to your attempts to reach out. It may feel overwhelming for someone who is grieving to text or call you back. You may have to give it time and try again later.

Acknowledge Their Pain

It is human nature to want to minimize pain and suffering, and we may sometimes say things that minimize the pain that someone is going through following a loss. Common comments include “Your loved one is in a better place” or “At least she is no longer suffering.” These types of comments may seem helpful, but they are often the opposite.

Instead, it can be helpful to acknowledge how bad or frustrating or sad their situation is without trying to make it better for them. Some people just want to hear that you understand how awful they are feeling. Don’t try to explain anything away or suggest that they should be grateful for anything, because those grieving rarely feel that way.

Keep Advice to Yourself

Sometimes the best advice is no advice. You may have good intentions, but offering unsolicited advice to someone going through the grieving process can be detrimental to their healing. You may have been through periods of grief yourself, but you may not know exactly what your loved one is thinking or feeling. Unless you’ve been asked directly for your opinion or suggestions, keep them to yourself and offer up a listening ear instead.

Suggest a Support Group

For many people, speaking with someone who has experienced something similar to what they’re going through can help with the healing process. While you should avoid giving advice, you may want to suggest a grief support group. How you word your suggestion can make a big difference. Try “You might try…” instead of “You should…” This puts the decision into the hands of the grieving person, giving them a sense of control.

Support groups can serve as sounding boards for those wanting to talk through their grief with like-minded individuals and those who truly understand. If your loved one is hesitant to go but wants to try, offer to attend with them.

Offer Practical Help

You’ve probably said it before. The dreaded “let me know what I can do to help!” While this may seem like a caring offer, it’s actually better to just step up and do something without having to be asked. The most helpful tasks are those practical items that can feel impossible when you are deep in grief, including the following:

  • Prepare and deliver a home-cooked meal
  • Run errands
  • Babysit or drop off/pick up children from school
  • Care for pets
  • Complete household chores, such as laundry
  • Answer phone calls

Don’t wait to be asked for help if you really want to offer it. Just do it!

Be There

The very best thing you can do to support someone who is grieving is to be there for them. There may be times when they don’t want to talk and there may be times when they want to have in-depth, heavy conversations. Either way, be willing to show up and be that someone they can rely on and trust.

Remember, grief looks different for everyone. Instead of trying to make your loved one grieve in the way you’d like them to, be flexible and give them a listening ear. When you do this, you’ll know what they need from you and how to help.

When it comes to the death of a loved one, Southern Cremations & Funerals is here to help. If you know someone that is struggling, we provide access to a grief support group. If interested in learning more about our services, please contact us today.

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