Offering Help for Someone Experiencing Grief

Being There for Someone During Hard Times

Watching a loved one go through a period of grief after a significant loss can challenge in ways that leave you feeling helpless. Of course, you want to be there for them during the hard times, but the fragility of the situation can make you feel unsure about what to say or do. Grief can take many human forms, as someone in pain may experience feelings of depression, guilt, anger, isolation, confusion, denial, or something in between.

It is perfectly normal to be scared of being intrusive, saying the wrong thing or accidentally making a loved one feel worse about the situation. Maybe you feel like there’s nothing you can do to truly help. These are all common concerns to have. Although, discomfort should never prevent you from extending a hand to someone that can use it. This is the time, more than ever, that they will truly need the support of their friends and family. During hardship, it’s not about having the right answers or advice. The best thing you can offer to someone in grief is to simply be present with them. The support and care from loved ones are what will ultimately help set them on a path of healthy coping mechanisms and, eventually, healing. Below are some tips and guidance to keep in mind while trying to help a loved one through tragedy:

Tip #1: Understand the Process of Grief

The “right” way to grieve doesn’t exist. Grief doesn’t always follow a linear path, where one can predict the stages as they unfold. It can take us on an emotional rollercoaster, filled with extreme emotions, rash behaviors, and setbacks. Everyone handles grief differently, so avoid telling them how they should behave or what they should be doing. There is no timetable for grief, and your loved one will need reassurance that what they are going through is normal. Do not make them feel judged and do not pressure them to heal faster than they naturally are.

Tip #2: Know How to Talk to a Grieving Friend

The most important thing to know about talking to someone in grief is not about talking at all – it’s about listening. In grief, we want to feel that our loss is being acknowledged, that the death of their loved one will not be forgotten by everyone, and that it’s not too awful to be discussed when they feel like it. One day they might want to sit in silence. The next day, they might need a shoulder to cry on. By using your ear to be present with them and offer your compassion, you can take cues from the person in grief to figure out what they need from you.

Tip #3: Provide Practical Forms of Assistance

It can be hard for grieving loved ones to reach out, even if they want to deep down. It is common to fear to be a burden to those around us, or we simply may feel too sad to initiate contact with our friends and family. Grief can decrease our energy and willingness to ask for something, so instead of “let me know how I can help,” consider being more specific. When offering help for someone experiencing grief, you can try saying, “I’m cooking dinner at home tonight, what can I bring over?” Persistently offering tangible forms of assistance helps the grieved know that you will be there for them as long as they need you.

Tip #4: Offer Ongoing Support

The support you can offer should continually be brought to their attention, as the internal healing process of grief can take a much longer recovery period than one may expect. You can periodically check in with them to see how they’re doing, as it may take months or years to get back to their normal, healthy self. Even if they seem fine from the outside, they may still be suffering immensely deep down. Be sensitive to the fact that their loss has permanently affected their life, and that they may need ongoing support on certain days of the year even after a significant amount of time has passed since the tragedy.

Tip #5: Pay Attention to Signs of Depression

After grief, it is common for someone to become depressed or disconnected from reality. However, if their symptoms of grief don’t show any decline over time, or if they get even worse, this could be a signal that their normal symptoms of grief have transformed into clinical depression. Encourage your grieving loved one to get professional help if you see any of these behaviors after the initial period of grief has passed:

  • Trouble functioning in their day-to-day life
  • Excessive guilt or anger
  • Neglecting physical health and/or personal hygiene
  • Inability to find enjoyment in things they previously enjoyed
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Withdraw from social situations
  • Consistent feelings of hopelessness
  • Any mention of suicide or lack of interest in being alive

Watch YouTube Video: Grief | How to Comfort Someone Who is Grieving. In the following video, Allen Parr discusses the dos and don’ts of comforting someone who is going through a loss.

Roseville Wrongful Death Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Roseville wrongful death lawyer. Grief is never easy, and it is even harder to move on when a loved one’s death could have been avoided by a negligent party. If this has happened to someone you love, I encourage you to call me to discuss your options moving forward. I can be reached at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400. I would be happy to share my free and friendly legal advice with you.

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