Helping someone through grief can be hard when there’s not a global pandemic, but it can seem harder when there’s the added isolation to contend with. Plus anniversaries, birthdays and of course during the festive season grief can really be amplified.
So if you know someone who’s grieving, how is it best to help them through it?
Here are five tips to helping someone through grief.
Being Present in their Life
It sounds so simple that it can almost be overlooked but just being there for the person grieving can make all the difference in the world. Really.
That doesn’t mean phoning them at 6am and asking how they slept, but reaching out with a quick message, phone call or in social distancing times a video chat really counts. Let the person who is grieving know that you’re there when they need you. It’s not about grand gestures, it’s just the importance in the comfort of having a good friend ready when needed.
The grieving person might have people who rely on them, even during grief, and so still has to function on a daily basis. Just knowing there is someone close at hand, ready to help is hugely comforting.
Don’t try to find solutions, and don’t think you need to make things better. It’s better to listen than to talk in this situation.
Grieving is a long process, perhaps that of a lifetime. There are many things that can help with the practical side of a person dying (including choosing pre-arranged funerals, funeral finance, using the ‘Tell Us Once’ scheme for documents), but perhaps the real test is in the everyday.
The situation has changed and adjusting to that change in a healthy way is where the support is really needed.
Don’t Shy Away from the Death
Ignoring it or pretending it never happened doesn’t do anyone any favours. Part of grief is coming to terms with the situation, and moving through it in a healthy way.
It can be tricky to know what to say, or not want to say anything at all. But this isn’t helpful. And don’t worry your friend will understand that it’s hard. So try not to overthink things or be oversensitive to the situation.
This doesn’t mean you should act like nothing has changed, but you should still refer to the deceased by their name, and not shy away from any stories involving the deceased (especially if the person grieving is telling the story).
Offer a Helping Hand
One thing that really helps someone who is grieving is help around the house. A little cleaning goes a long way (this can seem like a mountain to climb when you’re grieving). Perhaps offer to make a meal, pick up some shopping or pick the children up from school.
Sometimes people who have suffered a bereavement find it hard to accept an offer of help like this so you might need to be patient. What’s more people also find solace in all sorts of ways when they are grieving. And doing household chores might just be one of those ways. So consider this too.
Watch Out for Their Mental Health
It’s natural to feel depressed and sad following the death of a loved one, but coming to terms with it means moving forward. There’s no timescale, but if you feel your friend isn’t moving forward you might have to suggest speaking to a professional.
As well as the local health services there are often support groups that can help a person deal with their grief. They are usually run by people who have suffered a loss themselves and your friend might find the support they need to move on.
It’s also worth considering that your role as a friend also means showing them, when the time is right, that there is life after death and that indulging in moments of joy doesn’t lessen the memory of the deceased.
Physical exercise is also a great aid to positive mental health.
What Else Not To Say and Do to a Person Who’s Grieving
One of the biggest pressures on someone who is helping a friend through is the urge to say things to improve the situation. But you really should never say empty phrases like:
- Time will make it all better
- They’ve gone to a better place
- They’re no longer in pain
And you should never try to force your beliefs on someone, unless they share the same belief system.
- It’s crucial to let the bereaved work through the grief in their own way and without pressure.
- Don’t attempt to distract the mourner with gossip or news as it can make them feel like their grief isn’t as important.
- Don’t compare their experiences to yours.
Remember, it can take years to overcome a death. And the best way to help someone through it to be there, with patience and understanding. Don’t try to steer the grief, but let the bereaved work through it in their own way.