Loss is an inevitable part of life that each and every one of us will experience, whether it is related to the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or the loss of a job. Even though grief and loss are experiences that impact us all, the process associated with it looks different for each of us. This means that there is not a “right” or a “wrong” way to grieve or a specific length of time that grief should last. The nature of the loss, an individual’s support system, additional stressors, and typical coping styles are some of factors that make the process of grief unique to each person.
It can often be challenging to support and comfort someone that we know who is grieving and we can find ourselves at a loss for what would be helpful to say or do. Here are some tips for what we can do as well as what we can avoid in order to be supportive to those who are in the midst of grief:
- Think about grief as a problem that needs to be fixed.
- Avoid or ignore someone who is grieving because you don’t know what to do or say.
- Tell someone ‘to get over’ their loss and move on.
- Put a time limit on grieving.
- Give unsolicited advice.
- Assume that someone who is grieving does not need your help or support because they don’t ask for it.
- Make statements like “it is for the best”, “everyone is in a better place”, or “everything happens for a reason.”
- Make any judgments about an individual’s grieving process.
- Ask detailed or intrusive questions about the nature of the loss unless the individual wants to talk about it.
- LISTEN! Offer an ear and allow the grieving individual to navigate conversations about his or her loss.
- Separate your own thoughts, beliefs, and feelings about grief from the individual who is grieving.
- Be available and contact the grieving individual regularly.
- Anticipate possible needs of someone grieving and offer to assist (cook, clean, etc.)
- Be patient with the individual’s pace of grief.
- Offer to ‘just be’ with the grieving individual. The mere physical presence of others can send a significant message of support.
- Initiate plans (meals, walks, movies, etc.) with the grieving individual and understand that he or she may decline.
- Validate and empathize with the individual’s thoughts and feelings associated with grief.