BREAKING NEWS:

HOW DO WE HELP OUR GRIEVING LOVED ONES?

When somebody loses a loved one or even experiencing a major loss in their life – like a business or home –acknowledgment from friends and family can vary. Friends might send a card, make a phone call or even just send a text. Some friends will check in every few days for a while and then drop off. It’s typically only those truly close to a grieving person – like the spouse or a parent – who provide ongoing support until the person is “OK.” OK is in quotations because there are some losses we never really get over. We just learn to continue living and functioning.

It can be difficult to wrap our minds around the grief someone is experiencing if we haven’t been there ourselves. And typically, someone going through a loss wouldn’t expect others to understand their feelings – they just need support. A quality support system can make the difference between someone processing a loss in a healthy way and not. It can make the difference between getting on with their lives or not.

National Grief Awareness Day is a time to pause and think: is there anyone in your life who has suffered a loss who perhaps you could be there for a little more? If so, below are some ways to support a loved one who is grieving.

GET THEM FED

Grieving individuals can forget to eat or simply lack the energy to cook or grocery shop. They can even feel too tired or disoriented to simply order delivery. They may not feel prepared to interact with a stranger such as a delivery person, and they may feel too proud to ask friends and family to help them get food. Spare them the task of asking, and just get them fed. Bring over tons of food that is easy for them to eat. This can mean several prepared or frozen meals that they can just pop in the microwave when they’re ready. Maybe it’s tons of takeout from their favorite comfort food restaurant. Just stock their kitchen with things that take minimal effort to prepare to make one thing a little easier right now.

TOUCH BASE EVEN IF YOU FEEL UNPREPARED

Often people avoid someone who is grieving because they simply feel underprepared to interact with the person. It can feel intimidating. You can worry that you aren’t qualified to speak to the issue or really help the person heal. You might fear that you’ll say the wrong thing. You might even be afraid to be around their emotions, for fear that you’ll absorb them. All of these fears can drive people away from a grieving person, which leaves them quite isolated. Don’t let your concern of being unprepared stop you from showing up. It’s better to show up and make mistakes than to not be there at all. As for taking on their emotions – that’s what good friends do for one another sometimes.

Grieving individuals can forget to eat or simply lack the energy to cook or grocery shop. They can even feel too tired or disoriented to simply order delivery. They may not feel prepared to interact with a stranger such as a delivery person, and they may feel too proud to ask friends and family to help them get food. Spare them the task of asking, and just get them fed. Bring over tons of food that is easy for them to eat. This can mean several prepared or frozen meals that they can just pop in the microwave when they’re ready. Maybe it’s tons of takeout from their favorite comfort food restaurant. Just stock their kitchen with things that take minimal effort to prepare to make one thing a little easier right now.

MAKE SURE THEY’RE SLEEPING

Check in on how they are sleeping. There is a strong link between sleep deprivation and depression, says Johns Hopkins Medicine, so it’s especially important that somebody who is going through something gets enough sleep. Bring over calming teas that can help with sleep. Provide them with guided meditations they can listen to to help them sleep. If they are still taking on too much work/responsibilities that is interfering with getting adequate time to sleep, encourage them to cut back on some activities for now. Get them a sound machine that might help them sleep. Just ask about their sleep routine/hygiene and see if you can provide some assistance.

HANDLING ODDS AND ENDS FOR THEM

It’s very difficult for someone who is grieving to handle even simple tasks. Their grief can feel so heavy that simply writing an email or paying a bill online feels overwhelming. Take the initiative to handle some things for them. If their loss was recent, they may have appointments to cancel. They might need to let their work know that they need time off. Maybe you can make these calls for them so they can just focus on their feelings. Handle some bill-paying for them. If there are pet care needs, look after those. Just find out if there are some life admin tasks you can take off their hands.

DON’T FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TO PROVIDE SOLUTION

Your friend will need to talk a lot about everything going on in their mind. They might bring up fears and concerns they have for the future, with this new post-loss reality. It’s common to want to provide solutions. It’s normal to want to try to think of things you can say to make them feel it will be okay. But the truth is, you can’t provide a real solution to all of the changes they are about to face. Even attempting to do so is in vain, and perhaps insulting. It undermines the gravity of the situation. You don’t need to solve anything. Just listen.

DON’T FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TO PROVIDE CONSOLATIONS

If you find yourself wanting to start a sentence with, “If it’s any consolation…” just stop. Nothing is of consolation right now. When someone loses a loved one, the only consolation would be getting them back. Trying to provide “bright sides” or “silver linings” can also be insulting. It’s okay to acknowledge that this is just terribly sad, and that there is no bright side. In fact, showing that you understand just how terrible this is might be the only thing that makes your friend feel less alone right now. Offering “consolations” can make them feel like you just don’t get it.

DON’T FEEL AS THOUGH YOU HAVE TO DO MUCH TALKING

You actually don’t have to say anything. You can just provide a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. Processing one’s emotions is an important part of the grieving process, and being able to say thoughts out loud is a good way to process. So just having another person there to listen can be very helpful to someone who is grieving. It can feel like you aren’t doing anything if you don’t speak, but you are. The person would be alone with their thoughts without you there, and that can sometimes be destructive for someone who is grieving.

PREPARE FOR SOME SURPRISING COMMENTS

Understand that your friend is not themselves right now. They are in an unprecedented state of mind. They may say some things that shock you. They may even say some things that concern you. And they may sound very inconsolable at times. While your natural instinct, when hearing these comments from someone who wasn’t grieving, would be to interfere, just pause. It is normal for someone who is going through the terrible and rare experience of severe loss to say some things that are out of character. It’s part of their process. If such comments go on for months on end, then you may need to interfere.

DON’T TRY TO RELATE

Do not attempt to relate. It’s very common, when someone is going through something, to try to think of something similar you went through. You can feel that telling them this will make them feel less alone. But it doesn’t – it makes them feel that you are belittling their situation. Unless you have been through actually the exact thing they are going through (loss of a spouse, loss of a sibling…) you do not know how they feel. And suggesting you do can offend them. Acknowledge that what they are going through is awful, and that you don’t understand it, but that you are there for them.

JUST BE THERE EVEN IF YOU’RE SILENT

It’s okay to simply sit there in silence. Again, it can feel like you’re doing nothing, but you are. They know you are there. They may even take a nap or cry for long periods of time while you’re there. Your presence means something to them. Neither you nor they know if or when they might need to talk, or when they might just need help with something. By simply being there for hours or days, you are saying, “I’m being here in case you need something. And if you don’t, that’s okay too.” It’s hard for them to pick up the phone and call someone right now so if you’re already there, it’s easier for them to ask for help.

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Media Personality / President Of ScurvMedia LLC / International Social Media Influencer / Culture Critic / Podcast Host / Blogger / Cartoonist & Activist who focuses on the issues of raw human nature the Mainstream Media is deathly afraid to touch! 

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