Helping Someone Who is Grieving
Being a Gentle Companion for Loved Ones who are Grieving
By Allison Gary, MA, LPC
- Listen. Listen some more. And then listen even more. People may need to tell their story over and over as they process their grief and integrate this loss into their life.
- Avoid clichés, religious platitudes or easy answers. While common phrases can feel helpful to say, often they are not helpful and can feel minimizing or dismissive.
- Be sensitive and patient. Grief affects our minds, bodies and spirits. It takes time to learn to live in a “new normal.”
- Be willing to show up. You don’t need to say anything profound or earthshaking, there is no “right” thing to say. Often, your greatest help is your quiet presence and simple deeds.
- Provide a safe environment. It may be uncomfortable, but it can be of enormous help. Don’t try to fix, minimize or solve anything.
- Initiate contact and activities. It is important to respect a person’s privacy and give them time alone but they may not have the energy to structure their lives after a significant loss. It’s helpful to have someone else initiate, and be okay if they say “no”.
- Talk about the person who died. You won’t upset them or make them sad; they already are. Share your memories of the person who died, as you listen to their stories.
- Be there after the first “wave” is over. After a loss, grievers get an overwhelming amount of contact, but over time that seems to stop. Make the effort to reach out, call, stop by or help out in other ways six months and a year, or longer, down the road. Offering your help, even if it feels like it’s been a long time, lets people know you remember them.
- Find humor. Laughter can, indeed, be good medicine.
- Watch for destructive behaviors. Loss can lead some people into deep depressions, alcohol or drug use, or even thoughts of ending their own lives. Be a loving and protective advocate for a grieving person.
- Learn about grief. The more you know, the better you will be able to help. You are welcome to attend any programs or workshops with HeartLight Center that could be helpful to you. More educational resources available on our website: heartlightcenter.org