Grief is one of the most difficult emotions to deal with, especially without help from others. People in the midst of grieving can sometimes start to isolate themselves in an effort to protect themselves. If you know someone you care about has just lost someone important to them, it can be difficult to watch them struggle with their grief. While you won’t be able to make them feel better overnight, you can learn how to support someone you love while they grieve to make the process a little less overwhelming.
Connect With Them About Their Feelings
There’s a strange misconception about grief that says everyone goes through the same stages and takes the same amount of time to get through it. In actuality, everyone grieves differently, and it’s dangerous to assume that someone feels one way or another. Letting them know that you’re interested in their feelings can really help them open up. Try to connect with them by discussing grief you may have dealt with in the past, but remember to not dominate the conversation. Stay focused on their current grief, not your past.
Don’t Ask How They Are
One of the worst things you can do to help a loved one while they grieve is to ask them how they are. It’s likely you already know the answer to this extremely vague question, and asking it only puts pressure on them to tell you that they’re fine and don’t need help. Asking something like, “How do you feel today?” is a slightly better question as it acknowledges that they are in the middle of going through something traumatic.
Help With Specific Tasks
A lot of people will tell a loved one to call them for help with “anything.” Saying this once again puts more pressure on the grieving person to either come up with something for them to do or to decline help altogether. The better way to go about this is to ask if you can help them with specific tasks. Cleaning the house, picking up groceries, watching their children—offering to do any of these so they can focus on other problems can be a huge load off their shoulders.
Listen, Don’t Advise
For someone going through the grieving process, they won’t always need someone to tell them what to do. In fact, they’ll probably be inundated with people telling them what they should do about their feelings. Instead of adding another voice in their head, simply offer to listen to how they feel. Tell them you won’t offer advice unless they explicitly ask for it. Sometimes all we really need is someone to lend an ear to what we feel to help us work through something on our own.