When someone is going through a loss, they need the support of others. Dealing with loss is never easy, and taking on the role of being a grieving person’s supporter has its own difficulties as well. Here’s how you can better support your loved one through the grieving process.
Understand that grieving is personal
As a person watching someone you love go through grief, you might feel responsible for making them feel better. Putting this kind of pressure on yourself isn’t only incredibly stressful, it can also be counter-productive. Everybody grieves differently. Grieving is a very personal process.
Your way of dealing with grief might be entirely different from how your loved one deals with a loss, and there could be times when you feel the need to offer advice or even instruct them on what you think they should do to soften the blow of someone’s passing.
When you feel this, always remember that there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
However, people who are grieving do need support. You might be afraid of being intrusive or are conscious of overstepping your boundaries. This is a normal thing feel. To offer support to a grieving person, sometimes being present is already enough. Do not police the way they grieve.
You don’t have to know all the answers or only say the right things because that is impossible. Grief and bereavement services are also good to look into for your family member as professionals have the experience and the sensitivity needed to help someone through loss.
Sometimes, people closest to the person grieving can’t help but try to take over and direct the person’s grief–not out of malice, but out of wanting to see the person better faster. It’s best to be mindful of this tendency and explore professional options for your family member as needed.
Learn to listen
Often, grieving people are not really in search of advice or the magic words that will make their grief go away. Grieving is a natural response to loss. The goal is not to make the grief go away fast. It’s something everyone goes through in life, a necessity in processing emotions. What’s most helpful to people grieving is having someone present to listen to them, to acknowledge their feelings and not invalidate them.
Here are some tips to be a better listener:
Let them talk
It might seem like this goes without saying, but many people who are eager to be a helping hand could tend to listen to respond and not just genuinely listen. People have the natural inclination to offer solutions and solve problems, so don’t feel guilty or feel that you’re a bad person because you feel the need to offer a piece of your mind when someone in grief is voicing out their sorrow. However, knowing this natural tendency, it’s best to get a hold of it and save your lengthy analyses of their situation further down the line.
Offer words of concern, not advice
Of course, you will still need to respond when someone is talking to you about their grief. Like mentioned, advice is best saved when directly asked. Instead, readily offer words of concern and care. Tell your family member that you’re sorry that they’re going through this. Offer genuine words of concern.
When you’re with a person grieving, there will be times of silence. There is a natural tendency for people to try to fill in gaps in conversation, but in times of grief, silence can be powerful. Sitting with your family member in silence also lets them know that you’re not just there to share your thoughts; you’re truly there to just be with them as they go through this difficult time.
Widen your understanding
Grief can be intense, and there could be times when someone expresses intense thoughts and emotions. Let them let it out. Widen your understanding and try not to judge them for being too loud or “too dramatic.” Remember that the grief your loved one is feeling is indeed real. Believe them and believe that the way they express grief is how they’re currently dealing with the loss.
Lighten their load
While you can’t directly suffer through grief on their behalf, you can make the other things going on in their lives easier for them. Help them with housework, bring food regularly so that you’re sure they’re nourished, or help them with practical things like paying bills and caring for pets or children while they go through the process.
Seeing someone you love go through a loss can be challenging, but your presence in their life is important during this time. Have genuine intentions in seeing them through, and be guided by that while you support them as they grieve.