Grief is all-encompassing, a form of loss that each of us must face repeatedly in our lives. If you’ve experienced this, you found ways to cope and you recognize the process is highly personal.
Remember? There were things people said that helped -- or didn’t. Maybe someone’s effort to lift you out of your sadness made you feel even worse. Clearly, they just wanted to help. You knew that. But it does make you wonder: What is the best way to help someone through grief?
It seems there’s no single, tidy answer. Everyone grieves in their own way and at their own pace. What helped you in the past might not be right for your loved one today. For example, one person may find comfort in the distraction of social activities. For another, diving back into life too soon feels disrespectful to the departed.
But if everyone’s so different, how do you know what to do?
It’s good to know that professionals studying this difficult and inescapable human condition do recognize certain commonalities. Here are some ways to help a loved one who’s suffering:
- Be respectful of their coping methods. If a widow chooses to set a place at the table for her departed husband, there’s no reason for concern. She understands he’s gone. She’s just trying to keep a feeling of connection with him. If that’s her way, it’s normal.
- It can be difficult to organize thoughts when grief is new. Your loved one may not have the answer when you ask them, “What can I do to help?” Try to spot their needs and take a few tasks off their plate where appropriate. Mow their lawn, bring in groceries, pick up the dry cleaning. Take the initiative.
- Remember: grief doesn’t fade with the funeral flowers. In the weeks following a death, family, friends and neighbours all reach out to help. There’s plenty of support during that period of shock, but that support will dwindle long before the need does. Let your loved one know regularly that you’re aware they’re still in pain, and continue to “be there for them” as long as it takes.
Grief has many stages, and may include anger, remorse, resentment, guilt. Grieving is also physical, creating fatigue, aches and pains and more. When does it end? Truthfully, it doesn’t - but grief softens, and in time becomes easier to deal with from day to day. For many, the worst of the initial symptoms pass in a year or two.
If you’re concerned your loved one needs more help to weather their journey, attend bereavement classes with them or speak with a grief counsellor. Your local Arbor funeral home can supply helpful literature on the subject. To get you started, check out the infographic below for a few pointers. Learn all you can and watch carefully for the ways that seem to help them best. That’s the kind of support that really makes a difference.