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How to Judge Someone’s Level of Grief

It can be tempting to judge others when they have gone through loss, but it’s important to remember that everyone grieves in their own way. Some may feel numb and not show emotion at all, while others may cry and hole up in their home for weeks on end. You never know how you would react if you were in the same situation, so be sure to hold your critical comments back and instead help your friend or loved one get through this difficult time. Perhaps you can help connect them to bereavement services in Santa Clara and elsewhere, such as with a support group or some counseling.

Whatever the case, we should all refrain from judging someone’s level of grief. Truth is, grief is a lonely process, and this is compounded by the judgment of others. There’s nothing that makes people feel more alone, vulnerable, and raw than grief. This isolating experience can be pervasive even when we are surrounded by others who are also grieving. Bottom line is, there’s no right or wrong way to deal with this emotion, no matter what society pushes on us.

Survival Mode

Humans don’t naturally have a coping mechanism to help them process grief. What usually happens instead is that we shift into survival mode. The behavior people see from the outside looking in is only a snapshot of the surface of grief. Those displays of grief can seem inappropriate to others. Some people cope with grief by laughing at odd times, for example. But this is just their version of a coping mechanism, a way of holding back the tears and anguish — at least for a little while.

Because everyone’s experience of grief is unique, they should be allowed to grieve in their own way. It may be easy to judge or dispute their responses to death, but criticizing their expression of grief is not only hurtful, it may make them less likely to reach out to you when they need you or share their feelings, points out Better Health. Judgment closes people off — it doesn’t open them up.

People have a natural inclination to fix things. They don’t want to see someone they love hurting, so it’s natural that they want to make things better. Truth is, there’s nothing you can do or say to speed up their process of grieving. The only thing you can do is be there for them for comfort and support, in whatever form that takes.

Listen With Compassion

The best thing you can do is to listen with compassion. Let them talk and express their grief however they choose, whether that’s through crying, yelling, laughing, feeling guilty, or engaging in stress-reducing activities such as running or gardening.

Instead of judging, you can:

  • Listening carefully and with compassion.
  • Let them grieve in their own way.
  • Let silence linger. Don’t push if they don’t feel like talking at the moment. Always remember that you are providing comfort just by being there.
  • Hold their hand or give them a hug. Just be sure to ask first. The power of touch can’t be understated.
  • Get in touch with the person as soon as you learn about their loss. Just show up at their house, give them a call, send a text, or send a card and flowers. Not knowing what to say is not an excuse.
  • Tell them what you will do to help them, don’t ask. Grieving people can’t think straight, let alone come up with a list of chores they need to be done. Bring them some groceries, clean their house, pick up their dry cleaning, or take their kids for the afternoon. Just show up and do it.
  • Bring by a prepared meal that they only have to heat up and serve. Include all the fixings from pasta and bread to drinks and dessert.
  • Answer the phone for them when you’re there.
  • Respect their request for alone time.
  • Be sensitive to anniversaries, significant occasions, and birthdays, and offer your support during those difficult times.

Now that you know what to do, here’s what not to do:

  • Don’t jump in with your own stories of loss; it’s more important that you listen to them right now, not make it about you.
  • Don’t compare their grief with yours.
  • Don’t tell them that they are grieving in the “wrong” way or acting inappropriately.
  • Don’t pepper them with unsolicited advice about how to get over grief.
  • Don’t try to reason with them about what they should be feeling.
  • Don’t suggest they “get over it” if they are “taking too long” to grieve.

Judgment of others about how they grieve is an exercise in futility. Your loved one will grieve how they need to, and for however long they need to. Simply being there for them is enough.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

We offer a wide selection of bereavement services that can help you come to terms with loss, from support groups to counseling. We encourage you to reach out to learn more about them at 888-978-1306.