It’s often uncomfortable to encounter a loved one who’s experiencing grief. You want to be helpful and supportive, but it’s difficult to find the right words or actions. Grief can be so consuming you don’t receive feedback that shows you’re helping. Your best intentions may be met with an outpouring of tears and sobbing.
This new dynamic in a relationship with the grieving person can make some people feel as though they’re making things worse. They may start to avoid the griever, thinking their absence may help. That’s usually the wrong response.
Helping a loved one with grief requires patience and openness toward them as they explore their own loss. The team at Wellness Road Psychology can help you understand your loved one’s grief. Jamie Karia, LCSW is a grief specialist who personalizes her approach to each patient encounter, whether she’s dealing with the griever or someone in their support group. Contact the practice when you’re overwhelmed with the responsibility of grief support.
Ways you can help a loved one with grief
Everyone has their own way to grieve, and this may even change with the person they’ve lost or the circumstances surrounding the loss. It’s often overwhelming and a very personal experience that tends to turn people inward.
Perhaps the most important point to appreciate in your support role is that you must expect the unexpected, that this is not the same version of the person with whom you typically interact. That version will be back when grief is under control. Consider the following actions and behaviors as the things you can do to support your loved one.
Acknowledge their loss
While facing grief and the grief-stricken can be uncomfortable, withholding an acknowledgement of loss may be taken as a gesture of abandonment, even when you intend not to make their grief worse. A simple statement like, “I’m so sorry for your loss,” begins the message that you care. This can be vital in the early stages of grief when your loved one feels most alone.
If you typically come over for coffee on Thursday afternoons, assume that your visit is still on. It’s a time of devastating change. Something as simple as a coffee date or a regular message may serve as a connection with pre-grief life.
While this contradicts the previous point, it’s often part of the grief process to ebb and flow about contact with others. If you’re met with resistance about maintaining contact, understand that it’s not directed at you personally. It’s coming from a place of adaptation. Often, a social interaction implies a two-way exchange that could unwittingly place a sense of obligation on the griever. When no response is needed, say so. It’s often enough that they know you’re thinking of them.
Do, don’t ask
Asking, “what can I do?” similarly transfers the burden onto the griever. If there are dishes in the sink, wash them. Drop off prepared meals that store well in case they don’t fit into today’s routine. Drop off some of their favorite treats. Use your insight into the person to create tasks you can do without their prompting.
Recognizing that you’re in a period of change that’s driven by your grieving loved one is the best way to be helpful. When you need assistance, or when your loved one is ready for help to get control over their grief, we’re here to help.
Contact the nearest location of Wellness Road Psychology, by phone or online, to schedule a session with Jamie or any of our counselors. There’s hope after grief. Book an appointment today.