Helping Another With Grief

If your loved one is grieving—because of the loss of a spouse, friend, or family member—these ideas may help you care for him or her during a difficult time.

Trying to help a grieving person is difficult, time consuming, and emotional experience. The inability to ease or take away the griever’s pain can be frustrating. Yet, providing support to someone who is grieving is an extremely important factor in the grief process, and it can be very personally rewarding if you keep in mind how important your efforts are.

Here are some ideas that may aid you in helping someone who is grieving.

  1. Find out how your loved one is feeling by using open-ended questions.
  2. Ask him or her to identify certain specific needs that he or she might have and help with these.
  3. Understand that healing is a gradual process.
  4. Communicate caring in ways other than speaking such as a hug or arm around the shoulders.
  5. Write a note to your loved one recalling a special memory or quality of the person lost, or how that person influenced your life.
  6. Encourage your loved one to talk about his or her feelings.
  7. Avoid giving advice and do not judge your loved one’s feelings.
  8. Avoid false reassurances and clichés (e.g., “He had a good life”).
  9. Patiently listen to stories even if you have already heard them.
  10.  Do not try to change the way your loved one is feeling, but provide reassurance that feelings are real.
  11.  Offer calm acceptance of difficult feelings such as anger, hostility, or sorrow.
  12.  Try to help your loved one direct his or her anger at something other than people or him or herself.
  13.  Explore any “if only” feelings or guilt that your loved one is feeling.
  14.  Do not respond to the loss as though it is replaceable.
  15.  Empathize with your loved one’s grief but do not identify—grief is an individual experience.
  16.  If you had a similar story discuss it only when asked or at an appropriate time.
  17.  Invite your loved one to do something specific with you at a certain time.
  18.  Encourage your loved one to do something constructive related to the loss that will help commemorate the loss positively.
  19.  Remind your loved one how important eating and sleeping well, as well as exercise, are.
  20.  Encourage your loved one to wait to make any major decisions.
  21.  Be careful not to press your spiritual beliefs on others—gain strength from them yourself and use that to help your loved one.
  22.  Provide continued support in the weeks and months following the loss through written messages, telephone calls, and invitations.
  23.  Know your own limits and do not try to exceed these.

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