The death of a loved one is a difficult situation for anyone. Our reaction to that loss can be influenced by multiple factors including how unexpected the loss is and how close we are to the deceased.
While grief is often labeled as a “process” with a clear beginning and end, those who have experienced it know that it is more like a new phase of life. We’ve put together a few tips on how to help a loved one cope with grief.
Helping Others Who are Grieving
Take an active role in supporting the people in your life who are dealing with grief. If you feel that someone is experiencing heavy amounts of grief—whether it be a parent, neighbor, or friend—offer to talk with them over coffee or dinner so they may unburden their feelings. Many people hold in their grief simply because they don’t have an offer of support. Here are some tips to help you support the grieving loved ones in your life:
Offer Practical Help
Life can feel overwhelming while dealing with a major loss. Sometimes the best way to help someone is to step in and cook a meal, clean up around the house, or run common errands for them. Lighten their load so that they can take time to focus on healing from grief.
Avoid False Support Statements
Common phrases like “I know what you’re going through” may seem like a way to relate to your grieving friend or family member but can also feel very patronizing to the person who is feeling down. Even if you’ve experienced a similar loss in your own life, it is impossible to fully understand someone else’s grief. Instead, offer expressions of sorrow and take time to listen without giving advice.
Encourage Professional Help
A support system can only do so much when it comes to something as difficult as dealing with grief. Rather than shouldering the responsibility, encourage your loved ones to seek out professional mental health counseling or a grief support group.
Recognize the Hard Times
Holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries tend to hit the grief-stricken hard each year, bringing back feelings of grief even after years have passed. Take note of these days and let your loved ones know you are thinking of them during these difficult times. Reach out to the people in your life who will be alone during the holidays and offer a comforting presence over a shared holiday meal.
If someone you care about is grieving the loss of a mutual connection in your life, don’t hesitate to look back on happy memories together. Sharing stories and photos allows friends and family the chance to remember their loved one in a positive light.
Most importantly, have patience and empathy for the people around you and allow yourself time and space for healing. Life is difficult—just keep in mind that we are all in it together.