According to Harvard Health, “Unless you are asked for your advice, don’t be quick to offer it. Frequently, those who are grieving really wish others would just listen. It’s your understanding—not your advice—that is most sorely needed.” Do not tell them how they should be managing their emotions and when they should move on. That is not your call to make. Instead focus on acknowledging their grief and their emotional pain. Agreeing that things are difficult right now would let someone dealing with loss feel a lot more supported and heard.
4. Provide practical support
If you truly want to help someone through the grieving process, then offer practical help and support. As the grieving person is already dealing with loss, they might need some help doing certain things and going through daily life. So instead of simply saying “Let me know if you need anything,” simply show up and suggest exactly what you can help with. Ask them if they need something from the grocery store or invite them over for dinner.
In the HelpGuide article, Melinda Smith, M.A. and her associates explain “If you’re able, try to be consistent in your offers of assistance. The grieving person will know that you’ll be there for as long as it takes and can look forward to your attentiveness without having to make the additional effort of asking again and again.”
Author Megan Devine believes you can also help with the tasks related with the funeral arrangements. She says “There may be difficult tasks that need tending – things like casket shopping, mortuary visits, the packing and sorting of rooms or houses. Offer your assistance and follow through with your offers. Follow your friend’s lead in these tasks. Your presence alongside them is powerful and important; words are often unnecessary.”
According to Harvard Health, simply asking to help can make your loved one feel burdened. “Instead, be specific when offering help. Bring dinner over, pass on information about funeral arrangements, or answer the phone…Sometimes your help is most valuable later,” it adds.
Here are some ways to offer practical support:
- Running errands and doing chores
- Shopping for groceries
- Bringing over some food or dinner
- Helping with paying bills and filling up important documents
- Looking after their children and pets
- Accompanying them whenever you can
- Offering to take them out to a movie or a dinner
- Doing some fun activity like playing sports, games or creative projects
Also read: To Everyone Who Has Dealt with Loss
5. Be patient & offer constant support
During the initial days of dealing with loss, your loved one will have most of their family and friends available offering their help, support and love. However, as the days will go by, everyone will eventually will start focusing more on their own lives and become less available. Unfortunately, there is no time limit on loss, grief and sadness. Someone dealing with loss may need your support even months or years after the funeral. So be patient and make sure to be there for them for a long time.
“Stay in touch with the grieving person, periodically checking in, dropping by, or sending letters or cards. Once the funeral is over and the other mourners are gone, and the initial shock of the loss has worn off, your support is more valuable than ever,” write authors Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. on HelpGuide.
Although the bereaved individual may appear strong and fine to you, they may still be suffering internally. The truth is bereavement is never easy. Yes, they will eventually learn to accept the loss, but the pain may never fade completely. So make sure to show them your love and support without hesitation.
Things to keep in mind
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts that you need to remember while helping someone dealing with loss.
- Acknowledge the situation
- Ask them how they are feeling
- Allow them to express their feelings
- Get comfortable with witnessing unbearable pain
- Accept their anger, irritation and mood swings
- Be compassionate, show empathy & try to understand their feelings
- Be genuine and sensitive in your communication
- Express your concerns honestly
- Help them connect with support groups or others in similar situations
- Encourage them to take a break
- Note down special dates like birthdays & anniversaries and be present on those dates
- Remind them to take care of themselves like eating and sleeping properly
- Watch out for signs of depression or suicidal behavior
- Take them for counselling if necessary
- Stay connected & be available
- Express your love, care and support for them
- Don’t try to fix their problem
- Don’t attempt to explain the event or their loss
- Don’t try to minimize the loss
- Don’t expect them to reach out and ask for help
- Don’t say things like “I know how you feel” unless you’ve experienced loss personally
- Don’t stop them from crying as it can be a cathartic experience
- Don’t be afraid of sitting with them in complete silence
- Don’t judge them for how they are dealing with loss
- Don’t make their loss about religion or your religious beliefs
- Don’t take their mood swings personally. It’s not about you.