How to help those that are grieving

One of the worst experiences we are faced with in life is loss and bereavement. Some people will be fortunate to have never experienced any kind of grief and unfortunately others are all too familiar with the feelings of loss and bereavement.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines grief as “intense sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death.” This is as good a description as any, though I’m unsure any words can truly describe the feelings of grief.

We all deal with it in our own ways whether it be to talk about it or to hide away from the world until we’re forced back into society. There is no right or wrong way to deal with grief though there are perhaps methods that are better in some respects. The trouble comes when you are not the person experiencing the grief but the one trying to support the bereaved through their loss.

What should you say? What should you do? Will anything you say or do actually be what they need? All one can do is try.

Here are a few ideas on how to help:

  • Never avoid someone who has been bereaved. It’s confusing and hurtful. Texts, emails and letters are all acceptable – it’s the contact that matters. Grief can make you feel scared and alone. Saying “I’m sorry” is enough if you can’t think of anything else.
  • Never tell someone how they’re feeling, because grief is incredibly individual. Just be there to support them.
  • Don’t stop someone crying. Even saying “don’t cry”, meant helpfully, can seem as if you are shutting them down. It’s OK to be silent while someone sobs, just give them a reassuring, gentle touch to let them know you are there.
  • Save the flowers for three months after the bereavement, when everyone else has fallen away and it seems everyone has forgotten. The bereaved person will still be grieving. It’s getting back to ordinary life that can hurt the most.
  • Don’t be afraid to mention the person who has died. Often people will avoid mentioning them or their name because they don’t know what to say or feel awkward, however this can often be more painful than a stroll down memory lane to remember the good and happy times.

Let the grieving person guide you. If you are there to be a support, allow their grief to guide you along the correct path of comfort.

If you need any help or advice, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.