How to be there when your loved ones need it most
Grief affects us on every level: emotionally, physically spiritually, and mentally. We can no more control it than we can predict it. If someone close to you is grieving, it’s important to understand that this will impact every area of their life and they won’t feel ‘normal’ again for some time. They need to assimilate their loss, to absorb the shock waves, and to go through their own personal journey to healing.
Working through grief takes time, so don’t expect too much too soon. They will need to focus on the process, the journey rather than the destination. They need to allow themselves the luxury of feeling the pain and grieving. Just as we laugh when we are happy, we need to allow ourselves to hurt through our loss. It is only through allowing it to wash over us that we come through to the other side.
Here are some tips to help support someone who is grieving:
1. Try not to talk about how you felt in a similar situation
Even though this is usually well-meant, it can minimise the importance of the feelings of the person suffering the most recent loss and can make them withdraw.
2. Don’t try and change how someone is feeling
Grief needs expression, just as happiness does. We have to experience our grief, talk about it, and share it to help reduce the weight of it. Grievers don’t need to be agreed with or understood. They just need you to listen and accept their words without analysing or justifying them. When a griever is talking about how they are feeling, they are making a statement. They don’t need to be fixed, just listened to. Listening is one of the most important things you can do to help them.
3. Try not to say “Let me know if you need anything”
They won’t. Instead, try putting your words into action in a gentle way: “I’d like to cook a casserole for you. Is Wednesday a good day for you?” Or, “I’m shopping on Saturday, what can I get for you?”. These practical offers are wonderful for a griever. Offer a specific time for dog walking, odd jobs, etc. Practical help can say so much more than words and can take the pressure off worrying about saying the wrong thing.
4. Don’t be afraid to mention the name of the person who has died
Even though there may be tears, that’s OK. Mentioning their name will open up a conversation and when we lose ourselves in memory we often find laughter. Sharing our memories is where healing begins.
5. Keep going
Don’t just be there in the early days and disappear when it looks as if life has returned to normal. It hasn’t. Keep in touch, keep talking and keep sharing.
Lianna Champ has over 40 years’ experience in grief counselling and funeral care and is author of practical guide, How to Grieve Like A Champ
Connect with a counsellor using counselling-directory.org.uk