Supporting Others Coping with Grief and Loss
Many people do not know what to say or do when trying to comfort someone who is grieving. However, often it is the simple offer of love and support that is the most important.
What to Say
Acknowledge the situation and let them know you care – “I was really sad to hear about…”
Talk openly about their loss.
Be genuine and honest – “I’m not sure what to say or do, but I want you to know I am here for you”.
Offer your support – “What can I do to help? Do you feel like talking?”.
Ask how they are feeling. Each day can be different for someone who is grieving; take the time to listen and understand what they are going through.
Talk about everyday life too. Their loss and grief does not have to be the focus of all your conversations.
Avoid statements that are intended to comfort them but actually minimise their grief. They know they have things to be thankful for, or that at some point they have to move on, but for now they need time to grieve. Listen with compassion
Offer comfort. They need to feel supported in their loss, not judged or criticised.
Help them to understand that healing takes time.
Accept that silence is helpful sometimes. You can offer comfort by a squeeze of the hand, or a reassuring hug. Silence can offer them a time to gather their thoughts and reflect on times gone by.
Be patient. Sit and listen quietly as they share their stories of loss. Provide ongoing support.
Understand that life may never feel the same. They may learn to accept the loss and the pain may lessen, but the sadness may never completely go away.
Let them know it’s OK to share their grief. They are not alone.
Ask them how you can help. Make suggestions if they are reluctant to receive help or they are just unsure what they need. A few home-cooked meals, doing the shopping, helping to receive guests or perhaps offering to go walking or do something enjoyable with them can all help someone through their grief.
Encourage them to slowly return to activities or social events that they enjoy.
Keep supporting them. They will need support throughout their time of grief, not just immediately after the loss.
Be understanding and accept that they may act or say things differently.
Offer extra support on special days. Certain times and days of the year may be particularly hard, such as holidays, family milestones, birthdays, and anniversaries, as they often reawaken grief.
Encourage them to get help if their grief does not seem to be easing over time, particularly if they have suicidal thoughts, self-harm or appear to be giving up on life.
Look after yourself. Helping a grieving person can be a heavy burden. Take care of your own physical and emotional health, and talk about your feelings with someone during this stressful time.
Grief is a process that each person experiences in a unique way. It’s how you process, cope and learn to live with a significant loss. By allowing yourself to grieve and accepting the support of others you will begin to heal. You will not forget your loss but you will be able to look to the future with a sense of hope and find a way to live with your loss.
To learn more about helping someone to deal with grief, visit Beyond Blue: www.beyondblue.org.au