One of the hardest things we do in life is to overcome grief ourselves, or try to help our friends and loved ones as they grieve. The act of grieving is very personal, and many times we feel helpless when we see someone close to us suffer through it. Sometimes just being there for the person is enough.
The quiet that occurs following the funeral is often overwhelming and unbearable for a grieving person. After the visiting family is gone, the flowers, cards and phone calls have stopped, grieving really begins.
Mourn with them
It’s okay for you to mourn with your friend or loved one. Following a death, it is common for a person to feel alone and isolated. They will take comfort knowing that your heart aches for their loss.
Be okay with silence
Many times your grieving friend or loved one won’t feel like talking, and that’s okay. Be prepared to sit in a quiet space with them. Listen if they want to talk about how they feel or about the one who has died – but, try not to be uncomfortable if they just want quiet. Your presence alone offers comfort and shows that you care.
Words that will touch their heart
It’s very difficult to find the right words for those who have suffered a loss, and sometimes less is better. A simple “I’m so sorry for your loss” is better than well-meant advice, trying to offer an explanation or over-used cliches.
Offer practical assistance
When someone has suffered a loss, it can be hard for them to attend to their usual activities. Oftentimes they won’t ask for help and don’t want to be a burden. How many times have you heard (or said) “let me know if I can help.” Be specific in what you can do to help them. Offer to pick something up at the store or ask if you can run an errand for them while you’re doing yours. Drop off home or kitchen staples that they may not have replenished. You can’t count on them to take the initiative to ask you for help.
Respect the manner in which they grieve
To be helpful to someone who is grieving, it is important to understand that there are several ways that people grieve. Your friend or loved one may seem dispassionate or detached in their loss and not display their feelings. Others are comfortable showing their emotions and are sensitive to their own as well as the feelings of others. Respect and try not to judge how another person manages their feelings of loss.
Grief doesn’t have a timetable. The person may look fine and back to his or her regular activities, but still suffering inside. Keeping up appearances can be stressful and tiring. Hearing comments about ‘how strong’ they are can put an added stress on them and encourage them not to show their feelings. Grief is commonly brought back to the surface on special days such as birthdays, anniversaries and the day of the death. You can help your grieving friend or loved one by being especially sensitive to their feelings during those times.
Everyone faces grief during their lifetime. Expressing and releasing grief is important. Having supportive friends and family to talk and share thoughts with is the cornerstone of the healing process.