Helping Loved Ones Cope With Grief

One of the most difficult things we may ever have to do, is help a loved one or friend cope with grief. When someone close to us passes, whether it is “expected” or sudden, the loss can be devastating. Knowing what to say and do to make our loved one or friend feel better can be trying, but don’t ever lose hope. Words and actions alone will not cure the pain, but the comfort they offer goes a very long way. 

Be present for them, whether you are physically there, or available at a moment’s notice. Your presence will give them the positivity and support that they sincerely need. Take nothing personally, and do not offer harsh advice or judgement. Be sure to understand that what they are feeling, and the way they may express themselves in their time of grief, is part of coping and going through their own personal grieving process. 

Grief is a gradual process, and it is not the same for everyone. We all go through it in our own time, and in our own way. 

Small Gestures

“It’s the little things that count,” and nothing holds more truth than this saying while someone we care about is grieving. Small gestures, including sending a card with sympathetic words, flowers with a supportive note, or condolence baskets, are some of those little things that will mean so much, and let them know you are there for them, and you care about the loss and the pain they are going through.

Set aside time designated for them, to be there, present and uninterrupted, and listen. Just listen, without judgement. Having that time set aside that they can count on, will give them hope and something to look forward to as they work through the grieving process.

You can also offer to help with their daily needs. One day they may feel up to it, the next day they may need to stay home, and avoid any kind of interaction. Emotions can come on suddenly and be overwhelming, and prevent them from doing things they usually do on a regular basis. Offer your assistance with meals, shopping, cleaning, and errands, or whatever you know they will need. Again, these small gestures will go a long way.

Knowing what to Say

This can truly be the most difficult part, knowing what to say to our loved one or friend who is grieving. The most important part of knowing what to say, is listening. It’s ok for someone who is grieving to talk about the deceased, and they need to feel that their loss is being acknowledged. They may cry on your shoulder one day, and vent another, and on another day, they may want to sit quietly and share memories. Stay present with them, as your presence is a source of well-being and healing for them.

It’s known of course, that you should never force anyone to talk when they aren’t ready. However, when they are ready to talk, do not deflect when they bring up the deceased to be discussed. Speak openly about the deceased, and ask sympathetic questions. Avoid asking “how are you?” The answer is already clear. Instead, offer compassion by saying, “I’m sorry you are going through this,” or “I’m sorry that this has happened to you,” and put the offer out there by asking “do you feel like talking?” This way you are letting your loved one or friend know that you are there for them, and ready to listen. 

Give Ongoing Support and Hope for the Future

There is no planned amount of time for your loved one or friend to grieve. They will need ongoing support. Their grief could be for a brief amount of time, or they may need a more significant amount of time to heal. Stay consistent with your loved one or friend. Although they may seem fine suddenly, they may not be. Continue to check in, and be available for them, even after they genuinely express that they are alright, and you know it to be true. 

Your ongoing consistency and support will offer them encouragement and hope for a positive future. The pain never truly goes away, but it becomes less in time, and we learn how to live with it and move on.