Grief is a very isolating feeling, so supporting a friend or family member who recently lost a loved one is very important. If you know someone is grieving, these five tips can help you support them.
Allow someone to share their story about their loved one; this could include details of their death. Doing this is such a kind and loving act. Be utterly present at this moment. Avoid correcting details or passing judgment.
Many times, people reach out to someone grieving to talk or check in with them, but this may not be a way that allows them to express themselves. Being present with someone will let them see there’s support for their feelings of grief and how they want to communicate them.
Acknowledge a Person’s Pain.
Do your best to try not to fix someone’s pain. All too often, we define offering support as fixing something for someone. When it comes to grief, that equation doesn’t work. That is because no words or actions can change this person’s moment of pain or make things better. Acknowledge that their pain is real. Be with them in their pain. Let them talk; let them cry.
The ultimate goal in acknowledging someone’s pain is to support them and give them what they need, and not what we think they need.
Memories are Healing.
It’s very common to avoid talking about someone’s departed loved one because you don’t want to upset them. But the avoidance of the subject can have the opposite effect. Talk openly and freely about the loved one who has passed.
People need to know their loved one hasn’t been forgotten. Using their name, recounting memories, and telling stories are comforting. Even a short note, text message, or phone call can mean the world.
Steer Clear of Silver Linings.
Do your best not to start a statement with the words “at least.” These words may cause a person to feel you are minimizing their loss and denying them the acuteness of their grief.
Everyday things people hear when they’ve lost a loved one are: “At least they didn’t suffer” and “At least they got to see their first grandchild.” Most people will realize their unique silver lining in time.
Use caution with platitudes as well. While sayings like “This too shall pass” or “Time heals all wounds” may be accurate, they can invalidate a person’s recent experience. They deny the pain a person is feeling right now.
Show up. Offer Assistance but Respect Boundaries.
Nearly everyone grieving could use help with something around their house. They may need help with their lawn, caring for a pet, or assistance preparing meals. Avoid saying things like, “What can I do to help you?” or “Let me know if you need anything.”
One of the best ways to offer support is to suggest something specific. A grieving person doesn’t have the capacity for critical thinking. It’s OK to be bold and mention a particular day and time you can stop by to help.
There are many additional ways to support a family member or friend grieving the loss of their loved one. These are just a few that can help in the days and months immediately following the loss.