Grief is often a lonely experience. Those grieving a loss often withdraw because they do not want to impose on others. As a friend or family member of a person stricken with grief, it is normal to have the desire to help, but also challenged about how to be helpful.
Here are 5 ways you can make a positive impact on a person who is grieving a loss.
- Understand How Grief Works
Grief is not just sadness and withdrawal. It can manifest as anger, fear, and other emotions. It can also begin causing irregular sleep patterns, hygiene neglect, and poor eating habits. When you understand some of the less obvious ways grief manifests, you may be able to find more ways to be helpful.
- Offer Help with Errands and Chores
Grief causes exhaustion. Sometimes doing even the simplest things can feel overwhelming. Keeping a grieving friend or loved one engaged and moving forward is important. Offering to do simple things like helping with shopping, cleaning, or laundry, asking if they need help sorting and paying bills, or going with them on errands and appointments.
- Do Frequent “Thinking of You” Check-ins
Regular check-in with a phone call, text, or email can mean a lot. Simple invitations like “I am at a drive-thru. Would you like a cup of coffee?” can mean a lot to someone who has isolated themselves in grief. You can even just share fresh baked goods or a meal you made.
- Be Comfortable Just Listening
Healing from grief is a process. Healthy grief involves expressing sadness, not avoiding it. Let them cry and express their feelings. It is tempting to jump in and try to diffuse or discourage their grief expressions. While you may feel like you are trying to help them avoid discomfort, what that does is minimize very real feelings they have. If they feel you are trying to diminish their grief or are telling them they should not feel they way they do, you will likely compound their grief. They will feel like they are difficult to be around or that they cannot trust you with their feelings. Just listen and acknowledge the best you can. It will not be easy, but it is often what they need.
- Help Them Pace
Grief does not have a set timeline. Encourage taking one day at a time. A person grieving a loss needs to have realistic expectations about understanding that grief will not always feel as intense as it does at the beginning. Include them with a few of your routine activities like shopping. Getting them back into normal routines slowly can be helpful.
These are simple ways you can help a friend or loved one who has suffered a loss. Grief is much better understood than it was even just a generation ago. There are now many helpful publications, professional resources, and even group settings that can help people move forward through their grief.
Feel free to contact us if you need help finding more resources.