Many people are often not sure as to how to help someone who has recently had someone close to them pass away. Although everyone has a different way of grieving after suffering a loss, receiving care and support from family members and friends is usually very helpful and comforting. Just being physically present for someone is extremely important, be it in the form of running errands, helping them with household chores, or even assisting them with their finances. Many times after the death of someone close, people will find themselves saddled with more responsibilities than ever before, and these new duties can easily become overwhelming without help.
Strategies for Supporting Someone in Grief
These strategies will help you approach someone who is grieving with care and sensitivity:
Listen To What They Are Saying And How They Feel
Being able to truly listen to someone who is grieving and understand how they feel is one of the greatest strategies in allowing them to cope with their loss. While you will often be listening passively, they will be engaging with the memories they have of the person who has passed. Working through memories and revisiting emotions will help the person grieving process what has happened and how they feel about the events. This process may often be accompanied by tears, so it is key to be prepared for this and understand that these are productive years, and will eventually lead the person to a better place and frame of mind.
Be Accepting Of All Possible Emotions
Grief is a strange and often agonizing phenomenon, and not all people react to it in the same way. In fact, most people process grief in a unique, individual way, sometimes making it hard to relate to someone who is hurting. Anyone looking to help someone in pain must understand this fact and not judge the person in pain for feeling emotions that might seem foreign or out of place. Not only do people process grief in different ways, they also process at different times and speeds. While one person might be able to accept a death in a matter of minutes, it could take others years, or even a lifetime.
Supply A Sense Of Hope To Those In Pain
The death of a loved one can be extremely traumatic and bring on a sense of complete hopelessness. It is important to appreciate this and offer someone in pain a sense of hope and optimism. With your help and understanding, a loved one in pain will be able to come out of their hopelessness and realize that the world still has things to offer.
Be Understanding of Eccentricities
Although some people might not understand the desire for space, others may need it when processing grief. Do not try and force someone who is suffering into spending time with others, even if you think it is what they need in order to start feeling better. Many people simply need to withdraw for a while and have their privacy, and these needs should be respected and understood.
There are also countless cultural and religious practices associated with mourning the loss of a loved one, and these should not be looked down upon or restricted. Interfering with cultural or religious rituals could complicate the grieving process and possibly compromise a friendship.
Our minds are capable of quickly producing automatic responses, or cliches that can be said when attempting to show condolence or help someone in mourning. These are often not very helpful and show that you are not truly connected with the situation. It is easy to try and find the silver lining when dealing with loss, but reminding someone in pain that their loved one lived a full life or did not suffer at the end will not do much to comfort them. It is far better to simply listen to what they are saying about how they feel.
Offer Actual Assistance
Committing to specific acts of assistance instead of making an open-ended offer will be much more helpful to someone in grief. They will not be saddled with something else to think about and will still receive support. If you know that cooking dinner for someone will be a big help, then commit to making dinner on a specific day of the week. If it is not a good time, then find out when it would be beneficial and make firm plans to help on that day. The firmness of the gesture will help bring back stability to the life of the person grieving.
Encourage And Support Everyday Activities
While not everyone will feel comfortable going about their daily routine as before their loved one passed, it is important to slowly help them find themselves again, perhaps by engaging in activities or hobbies they once enjoyed. An invitation to an event or performance is wonderful, but keep in mind, no matter how much time has passed, some people will still feel the need to withdraw.
Withdrawing from society and friends is a completely understandable and very common form of dealing with grief, but make sure to check in periodically with a friend who has chosen to withdraw. Knowing that someone cares for them, even when they are not present and contributing, can be a huge support and comfort.
Understand Holidays Bring Strong Emotions
Holidays and special events can be extremely joyous occasions, but these same events can bring up very strong emotions for someone who is dealing with the loss of a loved one. Anniversaries, birthdays, and graduations can shift from being happy occasions to becoming strong reminders of someone’s absence. Continue to extend invitations to these types of occasions, but remember that someone in grief might choose to decline in order to avoid triggers of sadness.