Category: Grieving Process

Five Ways To Help Someone Who Is Grieving

Several weeks ago, we talked about what the grieving process looks like, what we can do for ourselves when we are grieving, and when we need to make the decision to get ourselves some help.  But from that conversation, another question arose.  What can we do for someone we care about who is grieving the loss of someone important to him or her?  Our own grief is sometimes easier to bear than the grief of someone else. Helping someone who is grieving can be difficult, because our instinct is usually to try to come up with some way to make the person who is grieving feel better, and we often feel so helpless to do so.  Even though out intentions are good, we can easily say or do the wrong thing, or say and do nothing out of fear of saying or doing the wrong thing.  While there is no such thing as the perfect response to the death of person who is important to someone who is important to you, there are some ways that you can be supportive.

Stick To The Things You Know To Be True

It is usually more comfortable for all of us to reiterate the platitudes that we have all heard about the death of a loved one.  Things like how he or she is in a better place, or he or she is out of pain now.  Stay away from the idea that the person you care about will eventually feel better.  It is going to be more helpful for your loved one if you can help him or her deal with the present rather than focus on the future or the past.  All you need to be able to say is that you are sorry that your friend is hurt, you hurt because he or she hurts, you love and care about him or her, and you are there whenever you are needed.

Let Exceptions To The Rules Be Okay

If the person who is grieving wants to talk about the past, do it.  Talk things out.  Talk about good things.  Talk about bad things.  Talk about anything.  Sometimes this story telling about the life of the person who is no longer with you can be therapeutic.  Also, if the person who is grieving wants to discuss the future and what it will look like without the person who is no longer with you, let that happen too.

Remember That This Grief Is Not Yours

While you may have some grief of your own regarding the death of this important person, you are not the focus here.  Your relationship with the person you care about is going to be a bit lopsided for a while.  The person you care about will not be able to be there to deal with your stresses, your angers, and your fears.  You may start to feel ignored or resentful of all the time you spend helping someone without getting any consideration back for your efforts, but you need to come to terms with that.  You are the supporter, not the supportee.  If this means that you need to find some other people who can support you, take this opportunity to widen your support net and branch out.

Be Available, If You Can

It is okay for you to need to go on with your life.  You should not let your work, school, or family suffer, but taking some extra time to be with your friend and be available for anything that he or she should need is advisable.  That said, try to anticipate that your friend may want to talk or be distracted, but does not want to inconvenience you.  Call him or her to check in, to make a lunch date, or tell him or her when you are coming over to help with mundane things that might be difficult right now such as walking the dog, taking out the trash, or cooking some meals.

Be a Buffer

What you friend might need most is time to grieve.  And if he or she has many friends like you, it might be difficult to get some time alone.  Tell your friend that you will gladly run interference between him or her and all of the other people who care.  Tell him or her to turn on the voicemail and leave your number so that all of these caring people know that their message will be heard and that your friend knows he or she has lots of people to turn to for help in this incredibly difficult time.

The Grieving Process

When we lose someone or something that we love and care for, it is going to be very painful. Grief is a natural response to this kind of loss.  Grief can be very intense. Depending upon the importance in our lives of what we’ve lost, the grieving process can last anywhere between a few days and a lifetime.

You can feel grief for all different kinds of losses including:

  • The death of a loved one
  • Miscarriage
  • The death of a pet
  • Losing a job
  • Losing financial stability
  • Retirement
  • The loss of a friendship
  • The loss of safety after a disaster or a trauma
  • Giving up on a lifelong dream

There are two very important things to remember when it comes to grief:

  1. Everyone grieves differently.
  2. There is no timetable for grieving.

Of course, the more significant the loss, the more intense the grief will be.  For a smaller loss, you may still experience grief, but it will not last as long and it will not feel quite as deep.  For a great loss, it may feel like the sadness and the pain are all-consuming, and you will never be without them.  However, everyone grieves in their own personal way, and there is no way to know how long the grieving process will last.

Five Stages of Grieving

There are generally accepted to be five stages of grieving.  Not everyone will go through all five stages.  And not everyone will experience each stage in order.  Because everyone is different, all grief is different and presents in different ways.  There is really no such thing as typical grief.  The five stages of grieving are:

1. Denial

People experiencing denial as a part of grief often tell themselves that the situation cannot be happening to them and come up with all kinds of rationale about how that can be true.

2. Anger

During this stage, people who are grieving are looking for someone to blame and asking why this is happening to them.  They may start to take their anger out on the people around them such as other family members or friends.

3. Bargaining

In bargaining, the grieving person will try to make deals with God or any higher power of his or her choice including the universe.  He or she will say that if the thing from which he or she is grieving does not happen or is undone, he or she will do something, give up something, or be something in exchange.

4. Depression

In the depression stage, people will assert that they are too sad to do anything but be sad.  This is the point at which many people are pushed to seek grief counseling.  When a grieving person enters the depression stage, he or she may get stuck and be there for a while depending upon the severity of the loss.

5. Acceptance

Eventually, most people will get to a point where they have accepted their loss and are able to move on with their lives.

Symptoms and Signs Of Grieving

While everyone experiences grief differently, there are some common symptoms. Many of these symptoms are not unique to only grieving, but in conjunction with each other will most certainly signify that grief is being experienced in a person.

Anxiety and Fear – Facing the death or illness of someone very close to you can bring up thoughts about your own mortality and how you will face life without the person in question.  These thoughts can bring up feelings of helplessness, worry for yourself and for your other loved ones, and insecurity.  You may go so far as to have panic attacks.

Guilt – Specifically with death, there is not going back and changing things from the past.  You may feel guilty about things that were or were not said or done.  You may feel guilty about some of the feelings you are having surrounding the loss such as feeling relief when someone passes on after a long illness.

Shock – Right after a loss or a trauma, it may be difficult to process what has happened.  You might have trouble believe what has really happened.  You might find yourself denying the truth or having trouble believing that it is all true and not just some kind of dream.  Shock really involves not being able to process the information that is being presented to you.

Getting Through the Grieving Process

All of these elements and more combine to paint a picture of grief.  No one’s grief is ever going to look the same as someone else’s.  When you find yourself grieving, you are probably going to need someone to talk with about what you are feeling.  Any kind of grief is worth sharing with a grief counselor.  Grief left untreated can get complicated and lead to emotional damage that will affect not only the person experiencing the grief but also the people who care about him or her.  A counselor trained in dealing with grief can help you navigate through the stages and eventually lead you toward acceptance.


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