This is the last post in the series on GRIEF by Laurie Moffitt.
It can be difficult to determine the best way to show a grieving person that you are available for him or her. Here are some guidelines that may be helpful if you are trying to be support someone who is grieving.
If the loss was unexpected, shock and denial may mask other emotions. We are often concerned if we are unable to see evidence of another’s sadness. We expect the grieving person to cry and appear very sad. Shock and denial can cause the person to appear numb, empty, angry or uncaring. It is important to allow people who are grieving to experience all feelings.
Listen. Try not to give advice or opinions unless asked a specific question. People who are grieving often need to talk. We naturally want to ease the pain of people we care about, however it is very important for a grieving person to be able to talk without fear of judgment.
Grieving people often struggle meeting basic needs. Be available to run errands, assist with chores, cook and provide companionship. The grieving person may not be able to determine what assistance he or she needs. Instead of asking what you can do to help, try being more specific. For example, you might ask, “Can I pick up something from the store for you?”
Grief has no timeline. It may seem to last a long time, it may cycle with periods of time when the individual appears to be functioning better or it may not last as long as you expect it to. Try not to place your expectations of what is correct on other people.
Often, right after a loss, many people are available to help. As time passes, people have a tendency to stop calling, stopping by and helping the person grieving. Little things are often very significant. A well thought out note, meaningful card, unexpected visit or shared memory can often have a significant impact on the individual grieving.
The first year is difficult as the grieving person learns to experience holidays and other significant dates alone. Have patience with people, who are grieving, they may not participate in significant events the same way they did in the past.
Remember that the person grieving may be experiencing a wide range of emotion. If the individual reacts to you with irritation, anger or tears, try not to take it personally. Remember that grief is not an excuse to mistreat people. While being understanding, you do not have to accept hurtful words or actions.
Take good care of yourself. Supporting a grieving person can be very exhausting. Make sure that you are meeting your needs also.
If the grieving person appears to have given up on life improving or appears stuck in a certain emotion or behavior, please seek the guidance of a professional. Grief counseling can help people process through difficult times and move forward towards a hopeful future.