Much of grieving is about expressing emotion– some may be unfamiliar, and unacceptable to self or to others, e.g. anger, guilt, remorse. Finding a safe place and an accepting person for support to work through all the effects of bereavement is important. The amount of support available from family and friends may be limited if they too are grieving. Misunderstandings can arise when people experience different responses to a shared loss. External supports may then become a vital factor in understanding and expressing your grief. It is important to know that you can survive the experience and that the new life that eventually comes about may have very positive effects despite the difficulty of arriving at this point.
- By being present and attentive to the bereaved person.
- Allow for moments of silence and reflection.
- Listen in a non-judgemental and accepting way .
- Avoid the use of cliches such as ‘Think of all the good times’, This is a blessing in disguise .. or maybe it’s for the best.’ .
- Mention the deceased person’s name and encourage the bereaved person to talk about them.
- Offer practical and emotional support e.g. by minding children or cooking a meal.
- Understand that tears are normal and healthy part of the grieving process.
- Don’t try to fill in conversations with a lot of outside news.
- Remember that grief may take years to work through.
- Acknowledge anniversaries and dates of significance for the bereaved person.
Some emotions you may experience include:
These feelings are normal and common reactions to loss. You may not be prepared for the intensity and duration of your emotions or how swiftly your moods may change. You may even begin to doubt the stability of your mental health. But be assured that these feelings are healthy and appropriate and will help you come to terms with your loss. Remember: It takes time to fully absorb the impact of a major loss. You never stop missing your loved one, but the pain eases after time and allows you to go on with your life.
- Seek out caring people. Find relatives and friends who can understand your feelings of loss. Join support groups with others who are experiencing similar losses.
- Express your feelings. Tell others how you are feeling; it will help you to work through the grieving process.
- Take care of your health. Maintain regular contact with your family physician and be sure to eat well and get plenty of rest. Be aware of the danger of developing a dependence on medication or alcohol to deal with your grief.
- Accept that life is for the living. It takes effort to begin to live again in the present and not dwell on the past.
- Postpone major life changes. Try to hold off on making any major changes, such as moving, remarrying, changing jobs or having another child. You should give yourself time to adjust to your loss.
- Be patient. It can take months or even years to absorb a major loss and accept your changed life.
- Seek outside help when necessary. If your grief seems like it is too much to bear, seek professional assistance to help work through your grief. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness, to seek help.
Remember, with support, patience and effort, you will survive grief. Some day the pain will lessen, leaving you with cherished memories of your loved one.
If you want to be a friend to someone who has experienced the loss of a loved one:
First – recognize that you cannot possibly understand what he or she is going through.
Second – don’t try to make it better. You can’t. All you will do is alienate someone by trying to change what can’t be changed. Many people, in circumstances such as this, will not react because they don’t want to seem ungrateful for your attention, but the reality is that it hurts and there is nothing that you can do to make it better.
Third – just be there. Be a friend. Say “I’m sorry,” but don’t try to indicate in any way that you understand. Hugs are very appropriate, but ask the person if they want a hug. Sometimes people who are going through a very bad time dealing with their loss will feel alienated. Many people seem to avoid someone who is grieving. Maybe they feel that it is contagious; maybe they are so uncomfortable being around that extreme emotional pain that they avoid the person.
Fourth – try to understand that in many cases they are going through a physical pain as well as an emotional pain. While the pain never really goes away, they will eventually learn to deal with it. That’s probably not a good thing to tell them right at the moment, but many people who are going through that kind of loss may not WANT the pain to go away right now. It’s a reminder that something incredibly important has happened. That their life has changed forever.
- Share the sorrow. Allow them – even encourage them – to talk about their feelings of loss and share memories of the deceased.
- Don’t offer false comfort. It doesn’t help the grieving person when you say “it was for the best” or “you’ll get over it in time.” Instead, offer a simple expression of sorrow and take time to listen.
- Offer practical help. Baby-sitting, cooking and running errands are all ways to help someone who is in the midst of grieving.
- Be patient. Remember that it can take a long time to recover from a major loss. Make yourself available to talk.
- Encourage professional help when necessary. Don’t hesitate to recommend professional help when you feel someone is experiencing too much pain to cope alone.
Limited understanding and an inability to express feelings puts very young children at a special disadvantage. Young children may revert to earlier behaviors (such as bed-wetting), ask questions about the deceased that seem insensitive, invent games about dying or pretend that the death never happened.
Coping with a child’s grief puts added strain on a bereaved parent. However, angry outbursts or criticism only deepen a child’s anxiety and delays recovery. Instead, talk honestly with children, in terms they can understand. Take extra time to talk with them about death and the person who has died. Help them work through their feelings and remember that they are looking to adults for suitable behavior.