Helping a Loved One Through Grief

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

When someone you care about is grieving after a loss, it can be difficult to know what to say or do. But don’t let discomfort prevent you from reaching out to someone who is grieving, now more than ever they need your support. The most important thing you can do for a grieving person is to simply be there. It’s your support and presence that will help your loved one cope with the pain and gradually begin to heal.

While many of us worry about what to say to a grieving person, it’s actually more important to listen. The bereaved need to feel that their loss is acknowledged, it’s not terrible to talk about, and their loved one won’t be forgotten. By being present and listening compassionately, you can take your cues from the grieving person. Simply being there and listening to them can be a huge source of comfort and healing.

While you should never try to force someone to open up, it’s important to let your grieving loved one know that you’re there to listen if they want to talk about their loss. Talk candidly about the person who died and when it seems appropriate, ask questions, that invite the grieving person to openly express their feelings. By simply asking “Do you feel like talking” you’re letting your loved one know that you’re available to listen. Let the grieving person know it’s okay to cry in front of you. Don’t try to reason with them over how they should or shouldn’t feel. Create an environment where your loved one feels safe and free to express their feelings – no matter how irrational – without fear of judgement, argument, or criticism.

It is difficult for many grieving people to ask for help, a grieving person may not have the energy or motivation to call when they need something, so instead of saying “Let me know what I can do”, make it easier for them by making specific suggestions. You could say “I’m going to the market this afternoon, what can I get you from there?” If you’re able, try to be consistent in your offers of assistance.

Your loved one will continue to grieve long after the funeral is over. The length of the grieving process varies from person to person but often lasts much longer than people expect. Stay in touch with the grieving person, periodically checking in, dropping by, or sending letters or cards. Certain times and days of the year will be particularly hard for your grieving loved one. Holidays, family milestones, birthdays, anniversaries often reawaken grief. Be sensitive on these occasions. Let the bereaved person know that you’re there for whatever they need.

All above, show your love. Show up. Say something. Do something. Be willing to stand beside your loved one, be willing to not have any answers. Listen. Be there. Be present. Be a friend.