Grief is a complex and deeply personal emotion that can be difficult to navigate, both for those experiencing it and for those who care about them. Watching a loved one go through the grieving process can leave you feeling helpless, as you desperately search for ways to provide comfort and support. Fortunately, there are several ways you can help your grieving friend or family member, even if you’re unsure of what to say or do.
Send sympathy flowers
A thoughtful way to show your support and condolences is by sending sympathy gifts like flowers. This gesture conveys your love and care during a difficult time and provides a visual reminder that you’re thinking of them. Choose a tasteful arrangement or bouquet, and consider including a heartfelt note expressing your sympathy and offering assistance.
Be present and listen
One of the most important things you can do for someone experiencing grief is simply to be there for them. Make yourself available to listen and provide a safe space for your loved one to express their feelings.
Encourage them to talk about their loss, but don’t force the conversation if they’re not ready. Sometimes, the most comforting thing you can do is sit in silence, providing a reassuring presence during this difficult time.
Validate their feelings
Grief can manifest in many different ways, and it’s essential to validate your loved one’s emotions without judgment. Acknowledge their pain and offer reassurance that what they’re feeling is normal and natural.
Avoid offering platitudes like “everything happens for a reason” or “time heals all wounds”, as these can inadvertently invalidate their experience.
Offer practical help
Grieving individuals may find it challenging to focus on everyday tasks, so offering practical help can be immensely beneficial. Offer to prepare meals, run errands, or assist with household chores.
Remember that your loved one might not be ready to ask for help, so it’s essential to take the initiative and provide specific suggestions.
Grief can be all-consuming, and it’s not uncommon for those experiencing it to neglect their own well-being. Encourage your loved one to practice self-care by suggesting activities that promote relaxation and healing, such as taking a walk, engaging in a favourite hobby, or attending a support group.
Be patient and understanding
The grieving process is unique to each individual and can take a significant amount of time. Be patient and understanding with your loved one as they navigate their emotions. Avoid putting pressure on them to “move on” or “get over it” and give them the time and space they need to heal.
Help them memorialise the deceased
Honouring and remembering the deceased can be a helpful step in the healing process. Encourage your loved one to find ways to memorialize their loved one, such as creating a photo album, writing a letter, or establishing a memorial fund in their name.
Support their spiritual beliefs
Spirituality and religion can provide comfort and guidance during times of grief. Respect and support your loved one’s spiritual beliefs, even if they differ from your own.
Offer to accompany them to a religious service, or provide resources that align with their beliefs, such as books, prayers, or meditations.
Encourage professional help
Sometimes, grief can become overwhelming, and professional help may be necessary. If you notice that your loved one is struggling to cope or showing signs of depression, gently suggest that they consider seeking the help of a therapist, counsellor, or support group specializing in grief.
Continue to check-in
Grief doesn’t have a set timeline, and your loved one’s healing process may take longer than you anticipate. Continue to check in with them long after the initial period of loss.
Make a point to reach out on significant dates, such as the deceased’s birthday or the anniversary of their passing. Let your loved one know that you’re still there for them and that their grief is not forgotten.
Celebrate the deceased’s life
As time goes on, help your loved one find ways to celebrate the life of the deceased. Share positive memories and stories, acknowledging the impact their loved one had on your life. This can help to shift the focus from the pain of loss to the appreciation of the time spent together.
Be Aware of your own emotions
Supporting a grieving loved one can take an emotional toll on you as well. Ensure you’re taking care of your own mental and emotional well-being. If necessary, seek support from a therapist or counsellor to help you cope with your own feelings and emotions.
Provide your loved one with resources to help them better understand and navigate their grief. Recommend books, articles, podcasts, or documentaries that explore grief and offer coping strategies.
By sharing these resources, you can help empower them to process their emotions and find a path toward healing.
Create a safe space
Encourage your loved one to express their emotions openly and honestly, without fear of judgment or criticism. This can be done by engaging in activities such as journaling, art therapy, or simply having candid conversations.
By creating a safe space for emotional expression, you can help your loved one process their grief and find relief in sharing their feelings.
Establish a support network
Help your loved one build a support network of friends, family, and professionals who can provide assistance and encouragement throughout their grief journey.
Connect them with others who have experienced similar losses, or introduce them to local support groups or online communities. Having a strong support network can make a significant difference in the grieving process, as it ensures your loved one has multiple sources of comfort and guidance.
Plan activities and outings
Sometimes, a change of scenery or fun activity can help lift a grieving person’s spirits, even if just momentarily. Plan outings or activities that your loved one enjoys, and encourage them to participate.
This can include anything from a walk in the park to attending a concert or visiting a museum. While it’s essential to be sensitive to their emotional state, offering opportunities for enjoyable experiences can provide a much-needed reprieve from the weight of grief.
Helping a loved one through grief can be a challenging and emotional experience, but your support can make a significant difference in their healing process. By being present, validating their feelings, offering practical help, and sending sympathy flowers, you can provide the care and comfort they need during this difficult time. Remember to be patient, and understanding, and to continue checking in with them long after the initial period of loss. Your unwavering support will remind your loved one that they’re not alone in their grief, and that they have a network of love and care to lean on as they heal.
Robert Haynes, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.