Grief is a universal experience that everyone goes through at some point in their lives. It goes without saying that it is a difficult period of time to go through, and something that gets many people through is the support of the people around them. If you are someone who knows another individual struggling with the grief, and you would like to reach out to them but don’t know how, there are several ways for you to show that you support and care for them. It can be difficult to know what to say or do, especially when the bereaved are dealing with intense sadness, anger and even depression. They may feel alone in their grief, because their difficult emotions can cause others to feel uncomfortable about offering support.

You may feel apprehensive about offering support, by being afraid of saying the wrong thing or making your loved one feel worse at such a terrible time, or you may even feel as though there isn’t much you can to do to help make things a little better. This is understandable. However, you must not let your discomfort or fear prevent you from reaching out; your loved one needs your support.

  • Understand the grieving process: Remember that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief presents itself in various ways. Avoid telling your loved one that what they are doing or feeling is wrong, because statements of that sort are not helpful in any way, and they are not what the bereaved person needs to hear. Grief can show up through extreme behaviour or emotions. They may scream and shout, lash out at the people around them, or cry uncontrollably for extended periods of time. Behaving like that is expected, and completely normal. Everyone processes loss differently. You must also remember that there is no set timetable for long the period of grieving lasts. Do not make your love one feel as though they have been wallowing in their sadness for too long. Do not make them feel as though they have gotten over their sadness either too quickly. Whatever the situation is, understand that that person is attempting to make sense of their loss, and that they are coping as well as they can.
  • Acknowledge their loss: When your loved one turns to you for help, address their loss directly. You could do this by saying “I’m so sorry for your loss.” A statement like this one is simple, but they show that you are not shying away from what they are feeling. Try not to brush past the topic by speaking about something vaguely connected to the deceased person, or ignore the topic of death by speaking about something completely different. The grieving individual may feel as though you do not care for them and what they are going through. You may be uncomfortable listening to them vent, speak or cry, but it is important to remember that their grief is greater than your discomfort.
  • Don’t let your fear hold you back: In a situation where you are turned to for comfort and help, remember that your fear is irrelevant. Leave your baggage at the door when you show up to show support. You may be afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing when comforting someone, but you must not be afraid to try. By simply showing support by being there, you are already letting your fear pass.
  • Ask how the other person is feeling: Grief changes constantly, and there are times when you don’t know how it looks. Do not assume that you know how or what the other person is feeling. If you have gone through a similar situation and feel as though your experience will help the bereaved person, share it with them. That person may have been uncomfortable talking about their own experience, and your sharing could help them open up and remember that they are not alone in their loss. However, the ways that you have both experienced griefs are very different, so do not claim to know exactly how they are feeling by comparing your grief to theirs. Share if necessary, but remember that your job is to listen, not to speak.
  • Understand that grief is ongoing: Grief is continuous, but this does not mean that its intensity remains the same over time. Your loved may appear to be ‘fine’, but they may be struggling internally. Remember to check on them and offer support, and remember that they are hurting. Their ability to perform daily tasks and function on a basic level does not mean that they have gotten over their struggle. Show up for them as much as you can. Remind them that their pain is valid, and that they are worthy of love.
  • Offer support: Offering support doesn’t only mean that you show up to support your loved one emotionally. Sometimes, it could mean cooking a week’s worth of meals and delivering them to your loved one’s house, paying their bills for them so that they have one less thing to worry about. You could help with funeral arrangements, shop for groceries, or take care of their pet in case your loved one needs to travel to a different city for the funeral. Try and continue your efforts for a long period of time, by staying in touch with your loved one or friend. You can call, send emails or text messages, or drop by their home every so often. There are hundreds of small ways to show your support.
  • Keep your beliefs and opinions to yourself: Try and avoid statements like “this was a part of God’s plan”, or “she’s in a better place now.” The bereaved may not believe this. It is not your place to share your beliefs. Read the room, and share certain statements only if you are sure that they are appropriate ones to make. Additionally, try and avoid beginning sentences with “you should” or “you will.” They are too direct. If you are asked for advice, try saying things like “have you thought about…” or “you could try”, etc. Offer advice only when you are asked for it, or only when you feel as though it is absolutely necessary.

Grief is something that is difficult to go through, even when one has a whole group of supporters. If you are part of that group, try and do your best to make sure that the grieving process is made a little easier by simply showing up and being there.  


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