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How to Truly Help Someone Who is Grieving

If someone you love is mourning the loss of someone they love, you may be at a loss as to what to say or do to comfort them. Sometimes it’s enough to let them know you’re there for them. But there are other things you can do to help them navigate the journey of grief, such as taking them to a bereavement support group in Santa Clara and elsewhere. Here are some tips on how to truly help someone who is grieving.

Understanding the Grieving Process

The more you know about the grieving process and how people heal after loss, the better you’ll be able to help a bereaved friend or family member. Here are some tips:

  • Realize that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve: Grief isn’t always an orderly, predictable process. Most of the time, it’s an emotional rollercoaster, characterized by unpredictable highs and lows, peppered by many setbacks, points out Help Guide. Remember that everyone grieves differently, so don’t tell your friend how they should be feeling.
  • Grief has many extreme emotions and behaviors: The emotions involved in guilt run the gamut from feelings of guilt and anger to despair and fear. Someone who is grieving may yell, lash out, get angry, blame themselves, cry all day, or bottle it all up. Every day may be different. Reassure them that the feelings they are experiencing are all normal, and don’t judge them for those choices.
  • Grief has no timetable: In general, recovery after bereavement takes between 18 and 24 months. This can be much longer for other people, and sometimes it never ends, in the case of complicated grief. Avoid pressuring your friend to move on. You don’t want to do anything to slow down the healing process.

How to Talk and Listen to a Grieving Friend

You may not know what to say to someone who is grieving. You may even avoid them for fear that you may say the wrong thing. But here are some tips to get you through.

  • Acknowledge the situation: Let your friend know you heard about the loss and that you are there for them. What can you do to help? Better yet: offer something concrete such as “let me take the kids for a couple of hours so you can rest or make funeral plans.” Often times, people who are in the midst of grief don’t know what they want and don’t know how to ask. Beat them to it and be proactive. Offer to help with grocery shopping, meal prep, making phone calls, or doing laundry, suggests CancerCare.
  • Let the bereaved person talk: Try not to fill the silence with your own stories or small talk. Pause to give them a moment to collect their thoughts and share a story or two about their loved one. This is a helpful way to process and accept death.
  • Ask how they feel: Because the emotions of grief change so quickly, take time every day to ask how they are feeling. It may change from one day to the next. One day they may feel profound sadness and the other they may feel angry that their loved one left them. Help them process each emotion by letting them freely express themselves. Just listen.
  • Accept their feelings: In a similar way, let them know it’s OK for them to cry in front of you, break down, get mad, etc. Make sure they know you won’t judge them, and give them a safe space in which to express those feelings. This isn’t the time to reason with them over the way they should be acting or feeling. With grief being such a highly emotional experience, your friend needs to feel free to show their feelings to someone they feel safe with. They shouldn’t feel like you will judge them for their responses, no matter how irrational they may be.
  • Be genuine and honest: Instead of minimizing their loss, offering solutions, or giving unsolicited advice, try just sitting and listening to them. Be honest. You could say something like “I don’t know what to say but I do want you to know that I’m here to listen.” Sometimes less is more. When you give them the opening to start talking, this can be very cathartic for them, knowing you are a sounding board for their thoughts.
  • Sit in silence: Silence is underrated these days. Many people talk just to fill the silence, but in this instance, try to hold back from jumping in. Don’t press your friend if they just don’t feel like talking. You can comfort them just by being in their company and ready to listen. Give them a hug, squeeze their hand, or just get up and start doing their dishes. Take the initiative, let the silence be, and offer assurances that you aren’t going anywhere.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Services

We have several bereavement support services here at Pathways. These include support groups, counseling, memorial services, and workshops. To learn more, please get in touch with us at 888-978-1306.