Are You OK? How to Help Someone Who is Grieving
When a loved one dies, the void that is left will affect everyone in different ways. August 30 marks National Grief Awareness Day, a day to recognize the time it takes to heal from loss. Because grief is so personal, this day is an important reminder that closure comes in many forms. Take this time to remember everyone in your life who is affected by any form of loss. Many things can trigger grief, from the death of a loved one or close friend to an extreme change in lifestyle. Losing the stability of life that we have known for several years leads to feelings of loss, and those feelings require closure. While some adjust to these changes easily, others take more time to get familiar with their new version of what life is. One way to get help is to participate in bereavement services after the loss of a loved one in Alameda County and elsewhere. If you have a friend or other loved one who is grieving, reach out and help them through it. They need you.
Stages of Grief: A Different Process for Everybody
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross first outlined the five stages of grief in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying”: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It was originally intended as a framework for people who were dying rather than those who were being left behind. But today, it’s taken on a more evolved form to include people going through loss after the death of a loved one. Still, these stages are a guide, not a rule. However, people still believe they’re expected to walk through each stage in a linear fashion because that’s just how you “do grief.”
Not so. The grieving process is unique to each person. The best way to offer support, says Psychology Today, is to not. Instead, the kindest thing is just to be there and listen, ask questions and share memories. This will help to confirm the depth of your friend’s grief and keep the love alive. Be mindful of what you say to try and make them feel better. Platitudes like “They are in a better place now” or “Time heals all wounds” can have the opposite effect on someone you’re trying to support.
Conduct regular check-ins with grieving loved ones, offering a simple: “I’m here if you want to just be.” It’s also important to remove a timeline from the grieving process. Never tell someone they “should be over it by now,” which puts pressure on the griever to rush the process; in truth, it will only serve to delay their healing.
Ground Rules to Keep in Mind
There’s no one perfect way to support or respond to someone you care about, but here are some solid ground rules to keep in mind.
- Play the supporting role, not the central role, in your friend’s grief. Forget about the advice, suggestions, and “help” where you tell your friend they should be grieving differently, or handling the process differently. Grief is a personal experience, belonging entirely to the person who is experiencing it, says the Huffington Post. Instead, follow your friend’s lead.
- Don’t try to fix the unfixable. Their loss can’t be fixed, repaired or solved. It only is. Don’t try to take the pain away because you can’t. This will be a relief and a comfort to your friend if you can just be there in the moment and let them feel what they have to.
- It’s not about you. It’s not easy to be around someone who is in pain. Anger, fear, guilt, and many other emotions will come out. Your feelings may be hurt in the process. You may feel like you’re being unappreciated or ignored. Don’t take it personally and don’t take it out on them. Right now, your friend simply can’t show up for his or her part in the relationship. Find someone else to lean on during this time.
- Anticipate, don’t ask. When you say “Call me if you need anything,” you’re putting the onus on them to take action. Your friend will likely not call. They don’t have the energy to do it. This is why it’s best to give concrete offers: “I will come to your house at 5 p.m. on Friday to bring you dinner,” or “Let me take the kids out for the day to the park while you have some time to yourself,” or even “I’ll take out your trash and recycling to the curb on Tuesday.” Then follow through.
- Run interference. Someone who is freshly grieving is overwhelmed by all the people, support and offers. It’s tough to feel like you’re living in a fish bowl, always on the front lines and repeating the same mantras to well wishers. Your friend is going through an intensely personal and private time, which is where you come in: shield and shelter your friend. Set yourself up as the designated contact. Be the one to relay information to the outside world, from funeral arrangements to child care to meal trains. You will feel useful and your friend will appreciate the opportunity to grieve privately.
Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice
We offer bereavement services to those who are grieving, from support groups to workshops. Please come join us, we would love to have you. Contact us today at 888-978-1306.