When someone we love is grieving it’s hard to know how to comfort them or what to say. Our hearts break as we watch them grieve and yet we’re often at a loss as to what we should do to provide comfort. We want to help but we’re scared we’ll say or do the wrong thing and just make matters worse. Don’t let these feelings prevent you from reaching out to your loved one and offering your support. This is the time when your loved one truly needs your love and presence.
Here are some ideas for how to support your grieving loved one.
Understand the Process of Grieving
Grieving is a process, it takes time, and everyone experiences grief differently. There isn’t a right or wrong way to experience grief. Therefore, while you may not understand your loved one’s grieving process you need to support them through it and not judge them.
Grieving involves a rollercoaster of emotions. Don’t be shocked as your loved one goes from lows to highs and back again. Feelings of anger and fear are very common, as are feelings of guilt or despair. Reassure your loved one that what he or she is feeling is perfectly normal and let them vent and get their emotions out.
Grief does not follow a timetable. We can’t predict or judge when an individual will be finished with the grieving process. The timing is unique for everyone. You need to remain patient and understanding. Pushing your loved one to stop grieving and get on with life can be quite harmful.
Know What to Say
Wondering what to say to a grieving loved one is universally felt. The first thing to remember is that taking the time to listen is more important than the words you say. Follow the lead of your loved one. Give them the freedom to talk if that’s what they want to do. Ask questions if they are open to that.
Here are some ideas as to what to say to your loved one:
- Acknowledge what has happened, that an individual has died.
- Express your concern for your loved one.
- Offer your support by asking what you can do for your loved one.
- Avoid statements that start with you should or you will.
Offer Your Loved One Practical Assistance
If we simply ask our loved one if there is anything we can do, they often cannot think of anything, or are unwilling to ask. Instead, it is better to offer specific, practical help.
Some ideas of practical ways to help your grieving loved one include:
- Shopping for groceries,
- Running errands,
- Cooking a meal,
- Helping with funeral or memorial service arrangements,
- Making phone calls,
- Cleaning the house,
- Watching the children,
- Caring for pets,
- Driving to any appointments, or
- Going out for lunch.
Offer Ongoing Support
Remember, grieving is a process, so ongoing support is required. The hardest time for the grieving is shortly after the funeral or memorial service is over and everyone has gone home or back to their regular lives. Do not forget about your loved one during this time, he or she requires your support more than ever.
Do not assume that just because your loved one is looking better on the outside, that he or she is feeling better on the inside. Encourage your loved one to express his or her true feelings. Remind them you are there.
The ‘firsts’ that follow during the first year of bereavement present especially difficult for the grieving. The first birthday, the first Christmas, anything that is associated with special occasions, family rituals, or shared experiences. Let your loved one know you are there and available if he or she needs extra support on these occasions.
Remember, the best thing you can do is to show up for your loved one. Be there, and listen.