How to Help Someone Who is Grieving

Written By Brenda Gibbs

Brenda Gibbs

"I don't know what to say... I don't know what to do"

Due to COVID-19, awareness of grief is on the rise. This is a subject that is skirted by many but cannot be ignored in our present situation. How can friends and family give sincere and meaningful help to bereaved relatives, friends, and neighbors? Certainly the option to say or do nothing is there, but often this option is not a good one. Be assured there is no perfect way to respond or to support the person you care about, but here are a few suggestions that may help you be more helpful. In the end, you will also learn about yourself. Some helpful suggestions are listed and by no means complete:

  • Grief is very personal and belongs to the person.

    • Take their lead and do not try to fix the unfixable. Stay present and state the truth. “This really sucks. I’m here. I love you.”
  • Anticipate, don’t ask.

    • Lessen the burden of ‘normal’ life by doing chores or recurring tasks e.g. walk the dog, mow the lawn, shovel the driveway. These are tangible evidence of love and support.
  • Encourage feelings to be expressed by saying:

    • ‘Don’t be embarrassed to cry, it is important to let your pain out’
    • ‘You don’t have to be strong for me… let your feelings out’
    • ‘Of course you’re upset… life just isn’t fair when we lose our hopes and dreams for the future’
    • ‘This must seem like more pain than anyone could bear; try to deal with it a little at a time’
  • Show encouragement and patience

    • ‘I can only imagine how an experience like this would change a person’
    • ‘You must miss your loved one very much; would you like to talk about him/her?’
    • ‘You must be in a lot of pain; it is important to give yourself as much time as you need’
    • ‘I know this will take time and I will help you as much as I can’
    • ‘You don’t have to go through this alone; I know you are doing the best you can and I am here to help you in whatever way you need’
  • Avoid cliches and instead be present

    • ‘Your pain is real and cannot be compared to others’
    • ‘I’m sorry that this ever happened and that your loved one had to suffer so much’
    • ‘I don’t know why this happened sometimes life can feel very unfair’
  • Be a witness to the searing pain of loss.

    • Yup, this one is difficult. The more you can acknowledge the pain, the less the person will feel alone. Often a counsellor is a person who can handle this type of presence. However, friends and family are also valuable.
    • ‘I will call you tomorrow (or in a few days) to see if there is anything you need; please let me know how I can help when I call’
    • ‘I know how much you miss your beloved and no one will ever be able to take his/her place’
    • ‘Every loss is unique and your pain is yours to live through’
  • Educate yourself about grief and be an advocate.

    • This may be a time for your own learning and growth. Everyone has their time of loss.

If you’re a person who reads the beginning and end of a book, here are the nuggets to remember:

 

 Forget the platitudes. Just love. Show up. Listen. Do something. Give comfort and support. Be present and stand beside your friend/family member as they look into the chasm that has been created in their life. It’s ok. You can do it.

 

Although life will never be the same after a loss, with time, a new life will grow and bloom alongside the cherished memories of those who passed. Remember that they are always with you in spirit, and want you to live your best, most joyful and peaceful life.

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