Supporting Through Grief
Do you feel uncomfortable when it comes to dealing with grief? You are not alone. While we know that grief and loss are unavoidable realities of life, there still exists a lot of fear and difficulty discussing these painful emotions. Many people do not know how to talk about their own grief, or how to “be there” for someone else experiencing loss. Consequently, this can leave a person who is grieving feeling lonely, isolated, and unsupported. So, what could we do, and what may not be as helpful, when it comes to helping people in our lives who are grieving or dealing with significant loss?
First, it is important to say something. People in grief may or may not want to talk about the person they lost, but not addressing their loss can be hurtful. They are going through something big and avoiding the subject often feels insensitive. Even if it makes you uncomfortable, saying, “I’m so sorry and I don’t know what to say, but I am here for you,” then sitting quietly with them, can go a long way.
Second, address the loss specifically. Rather than saying: “I’m sorry for your loss,” try “I’m so sorry to hear about your brother Alan’s death. I know how close you were to him.” Hearing the person’s name and acknowledging the specific loss of that individual is often important to the person grieving.
Third, avoid comparing grief. Refrain from saying “I know how you feel, my brother passed away, too.” Grief is a unique and individual experience, so keeping the focus on the person grieving is the kindest way to respond.
Fourth, offer specific help. A go-to phrase often heard during difficult times is “Let me know how I can help!” A person experiencing significant loss is often incapable of knowing what they need much less asking for it. A better idea is to offer to bring a meal on a specific night, do some yard work, buy some groceries, or take their kids to a park for the afternoon.
Fifth, acknowledge holidays and anniversaries. Grief is a process, important dates, like holidays and birthdays, can be especially challenging after a loss. Ask how you can be supportive during these times, or at least acknowledge the important day and check in with how they are doing.
It’s important to remember that not all people respond to grief the same way, so use these guidelines as a starting point and be willing to adjust to the specific needs of your loved one. As always, if you are going through a loss or need help supporting a loved one who is suffering, Cascade Behavioral Health is available to help. Call 541-345-2800.