Grief and Supporting Others

A grieving person needs a friend who will come alongside through the journey of healing and restored hope.  It’s often not so much what one says, but how they support. 

BE THERE.  Grieving people need support and presence more than advice.

INITIATE AND ANTICIPATE.  People often don’t know or can’t ask for what they need.  Suggest times you’d like to visit and ways you’d like to help.  Allow choice.

LISTEN.  People often need to tell their stories over and over.  Listening without judgment or interruption may be a valuable gift.

AVOID CLICHES AND EASY ANSWERS.  Acknowledge that you can’t remove their pain, but you can be a friend and stand by them.

ACCEPT AND ENCOURAGE THE EXPRESSION OF FEELINGS.  Reassure a person that feelings are like barometers, indicating where we are in the moment.  Feelings may change many times in the course of grieving.  

OFFER OPPORTUNITIES AND SAFETY FOR REMEMBERING.  “Remembering” can promote healing.  Offer to revisit places and people who can add perspective and confirm the importance of the loss.

HELP THE PERSON FIND SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT.  Help locate support and activities.  Be encouraging, not pushy.

ALLOW THE PERSON TO GRIEVE AT HIS OR HER OWN PACE.  Grief is triggered in many moments, even unexpected times.  Be patient and caring.

PROVIDE TIMES OF LIGHTHEARTEDNESS.  Laughter and diversion are wonderful ways to regain energy.  

BELIEVE IN THE PERSON’S ABILITY TO RECOVER AND GROW.  Your hope and faith may be needed when theirs fails.  Your trust in the other’s ability is essential.  Be a steady, faithful, patient friend.

Grief and Self Care

Grief is a journey of adjusting one’s life to the absence of a person.  Those who have walked the path of grief and found their path to hope and healing are often the best support for others.  In order to support and offer strength for others, we must first find strength for ourselves.

  • SEEK AND ACCEPT SUPPORT.  If you lack support, make finding it your first goal.  Start with family, friends or clergy, or call a local hospice office or your EAP for advice.
  • FIND MODELS.  You may need evidence that survival and growth are possible.  Seek out others who can help you find hope.  Books and support groups may be good choices.
  • LEARN ABOUT GRIEF.  Many a person who has learned about grief has stated, “I realize I’m not crazy, I’m grieving.”  Understanding grief can help with the journey.
  • ACCEPT YOUR GRIEF.  Time alone does not heal grief.  Grief must be accepted and dealt with as a natural process.
  • ACCEPT YOUR FEELINGS.  Grief produces many feelings, some very intense.  Emotional pain signifies the value of the person in your life.  It also helps you be real with yourself and others.
  • PACE YOURSELF.  Grief takes energy.  You may tire easily.  A slower pace alternated with periods of diversion and mild exercise may help the healing process.  Include good nutrition in the pattern of each day.
  • INVOLVE YOURSELF IN WORK OR MEANINGFUL ACTIVITY.  It can help you to maintain direction, control, and purpose in life.
  • EXPRESS IT.  Without expression, grief can leave you frozen and stoic.  Find someone who can listen to your story, over and over.  You may also want to express it privately through music, art, or journals.
  • DON’T BE AFRAID TO HAVE FUN.  Laughter is good medicine.  Allow yourself opportunities for diversion and refreshment.  Laughter and fun does not minimize the value of the deceased.
  • RE-DISCOVER HOPE.  Faith is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to go on in the face of fear.  The healing process is a journey.