It is interesting that the one thing we are certain about in this life is that it will end yet when that happens we are never prepared. Emotionally we just don’t seem to be well equipped to deal with such a loss, we either fall apart or head straight for denial. But, in reality, falling apart or going through denial is all part of the normal process of grieving. Grief is a normal, healthy response to loss and we need to understand how to best deal with it in order to provide comfort to someone who is grieving.
So the question is how do we deal with or what do we say to a close friend or family member who has just experienced a loss? Many of us have no idea what to say or how to handle the situation. It is difficult to know what words you should say to comfort someone grieving. I think it is natural to feel uncomfortable and unsure in this type of situation. We have so much fear wrapped up around death or any kind of loss in our society that it is difficult to know how to handle our own emotional response much less know how to support another person who is grieving. But, there are simple and effective ways to help someone who is coping with loss.
Act natural. I know you may not feel comfortable but the more uncomfortable you are the harder it is on the grieving individual.
Allow the person to talk about his grief and express his or her feelings. Try to listen without offering advice or interrupting. The worse thing you can do is start talking about yourself. Focus on LISTENING and offer your love patiently and unconditionally.
Be patient with the grieving person's changing moods. It’s normal for someone who is grieving to alternate between anger, sadness, numbness and acceptance.” Give the person as much time as he or she needs to grieve. There is no time limit on grieving and telling him or her to 'get over it' or 'let it go' won't help him or her grieve any faster.
Show genuine concern and affection if the person seems open to it. Try offering hugs or an arm around the shoulder, as appropriate. If he or she seems uninterested or irritated don’t take it personally, it is a natural part of the grieving process.
Sometimes silence is what the grieving person wants. There is so much going on that a moment of peace and quiet can be the one thing they need. Sitting silently next to him or her and just being close can be very comforting.
Offer to help but be specific. It can seem overwhelming and stressful to have people keep asking what can I do to help you. When you are grieving you may have no idea what would be helpful or not. Because grief can be a confusing and overwhelming experience, suggest something specific. It is hard for many people to ask for help.
Be the one who takes the initiative to:
If you recognize that the grieving person is experiencing depression, urge him or her to get professional help. This is only if they seem unable to function in day-to-day life. You may want to help them set up the appointment and if they ask, go with them.
If you haven't already you may want to send some Flowers and a card it may seem like a small gesture on your part but it really means a lot to the person grieving.
Want more specific advice?
"A Practical Guide to Helping Others Deal with Grief" provides specific information about understanding the journey of grief with practical tools, tips and techniques to facilitate the griever's way to acceptance and recovery.
Try to avoid the bereaved person. It only makes them feel more isolated and alone. This is a time that they need all the love and support you can muster. Try to put your personal discomfort aside and think about the other person.
Pry into personal matters. Allow the grieving person to share what they choose to and just be there to support them. You can ask questions but think before you talk!
Ask questions about the circumstances of the death. Talk openly about the person who passed but not necessarily the circumstances unless they bring it up.
Supporting a friend or family member through the grieving process is one of the most selfless things you can do. It will never be forgotten and likely will help build a bond that will last a lifetime.
Practical Guide to Helping Others
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