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Helping loved ones through grief

At one time or another we will all experience the loss of a loved one; whether after a sudden death or prolonged illness, grieving for a friend or family member is a universal aspect of life we all experience uniquely.

Learning to be supportive and encouraging to others while they navigate this difficult process is always worthwhile. While we can’t eliminate their suffering, helping loved ones through grief can give them a safe space to express what they’re feeling and find comfort in dark times.

There’s no one way to grieve the loss of someone we love, and there’s no one way to support someone going through it. But if you know someone who is grieving, here are some things you can do to help.

Just listen

We can’t replace or bring back someone’s loved one, but what we can do is listen openly to how they are feeling. Many people get caught up worrying about ‘what to say’ at a funeral or to a friend when you learn about a death. The truth is, being open and learning to listen to them whatever stage they’re at is one of the most helpful things you can do.

Forget the silver lining

Occasionally when we are trying to comfort a friend or loved one we’ll try and put things into perspective. While it might feel like saying “At least you got to say goodbye,” or “Everything happens for a reason” might feel helpful, often it has the opposite effect, and belittles the person who is struggling with feelings of grief. Resist the urge to find a silver lining or try to make it better – each person experiences grief uniquely, and the best thing you can is try and empathise by reminding them you’re there to listen to them and they don’t have to go through it alone.

Pick up the slack

A death in the family throws daily routine out the window – staying on top of things like groceries, lawn work and cooking can be really difficult when you’re depressed and grieving. Look for ways you can pick up the slack. Are there errands you can run or chores you can offer to do? Be the one who takes the initiative to stay involved and active in their lives.

Say the person’s name

Oftentimes our instinct is to avoid talking about the death over fear of upsetting the person grieving. This can have a polarising effect though, alienating the grieving person and making them feel as if it’s not okay to discuss their loved one. Even in death, our spouses, friends and family members remain important parts of our life. Don’t be afraid to refer to the person by name and share memories or address the fact directly that they’ve died.

Avoid you should statements

Telling someone how to act or feel when they’re grieving can be very difficult for the person to stay. Avoid using statements like “You should do this…” or “You will feel better when…”. Instead, frame any positive suggestions as just that – suggestions. Try using language like “Have you thought about…” or “You might…” instead.

Don’t expect grief to be linear

Remember that grief isn’t linear, and there’s no particular moment where a friend or family member will wake up and be over it or go back to normal. People process loss differently – some will need a long period of mourning, while others prefer to get back to routine straight away. Don’t assume just because time has passed the person feels okay – grief can come in waves and even if on the surface they look fine, inside they may be struggling and feel hesitant about asking for support. For most people, once the initial shock and busy period of the funeral is over is when support is more valuable than ever.

Have you ever lost a loved one? What helped you while you were grieving? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Silversurfers Features Editor

Hello there! I’m Rachel and I’m the Features Editor for Silversurfers. I work behind the scenes to bring interesting, informative and entertaining subject matter to the Silversurfers community. I hope you enjoy the features we have shared with you. Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts with us, we love to hear from you!

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JinxB
20th Apr 2017
0
Thanks for voting!
what really annoyed me after the loss of my wife of 35 years was the people who said what stage are you at, expecting me to say grief or anger or some other trite emotion, My family were very supportive but each had to handle their own feeling of grief etc, I didnt want to talk at first and became very depressed, fortunately my GP understood a little of what I was going through and recommended counselling, I was put on the waiting list which was over 8 months long, fortunately the counsellor who interviewed me for therapy gave me the contact of a local church group who had a professional counsellor volunteering with them, I was very sceptical at first, I was a man, I didn't need to talk, how wrong I was, she got me to open my mind and talk not only about my loss but how my whole life was affected by my introspection. She gave me back a life I thought I had lost forever and showed be how negative grief can be if allowed to take over. I owe my happy and contented current life to her, the very professional volunteer counsellor who taught me to open my life and not feel guilty for still being alive.
kazzawin
19th Apr 2017
1
Thanks for voting!
I lost my first husband to cancer 11 years ago and I still have days where I just cry all day, around anniversaries the memories both good and the bad stuff near the end of his life come flooding back. I have married again to a man who understands and he says nothing on those days, just hugs me a lot.
When my husband was ill, he knew the prognosis and the children kept telling him they would miss him. He used to laugh and say ' good, what's the point of living if you don't leave Something of yourself to talk about'
Grief has no time limit .... but memories are wonderful things and talking about good times should be encouraged.
DianaS4
19th Apr 2017
1
Thanks for voting!
Grief never leaves you it just takes time to learn to live with it and substances to try to help just delay being able to cope. Having hugs helps a lot , not enough loving touching i our culture.
JinxB
20th Apr 2017
0
Thanks for voting!
I totally agree, drugs to help with depression just hide it not cure it, grief is not a disease to be treated although drugs can help sometimes what you really need is emotional support, talking sometimes helps but unfortunately sometimes talking to familiy members is not much of a help because they are too involved with their own grief, coping and sharing expeiences will make a difference but sometimes talking to a non judgemental stranger is the best way to go, its not for everyone but it certainly helped me.
AngieS
19th Apr 2017
1
Thanks for voting!
Listening and allowing the person to grieve for however long they need is important beyond words
Just sending them a little message to say that you are thinking of them, is a supper in itself
wallers2
19th Apr 2017
1
Thanks for voting!
Yes. My brother tragically at sea. My parents & today I am off to a funeral! So good timing for your article. People said to me ' you will soon get over it'. Not a good remark. At the time you feel you will never get over it. But it does get better.
JinxB
20th Apr 2017
0
Thanks for voting!
you never get over the loss of a loved one but you can learn to live again if you remember them fondly and dont allow grief and guilt to dominate the rest of your life.
Ann F
1st Aug 2016
2
Thanks for voting!
What useful advice. I lost my husband suddenly 18 months ago and I am now finding that everyone thinks I am ok but when you lose someone like this, the grieving doesn't start straight away. People drift off and get on with their lives and you are left to grieve alone.
JudiJ
19th Apr 2017
1
Thanks for voting!
You're so right ......I felt really low about 2 years after the initial grief and I still feel it with every heartbeat after 4 years. You do eventually develop a new life but your old one is always with you.
Facelift
26th Jul 2016
0
Thanks for voting!
Great tragedies may unite a dismembered nation..
JinxB
20th Apr 2017
0
Thanks for voting!
if you dont alllow it to be the be all and end all of your life

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