Can we be of support to a person that is grieving today?
Why does it seem that people are getting more and more detached from the death and dying around here? We’d rather stay away indulged in our daily responsibilities, thinking that we have got too much on our backs already than go and offer our attention to the one whose significant other has passed away.
If your losses aren’t important to you, then, how do you know that you could be of a useful support to someone close who has just suffered such a significant loss? How can you be there for a close one, a colleague, or a neighbor who is going through grief right now?
Your presence, even if it doesn’t seem like from the first sight, might be important for that person. Contact the person as soon as you know about their loved one’s death. You can personally visit, make a phone call, write an e-mail, write a sympathy card or send flowers. If possible, attend the funeral or memorial service. The bereaved needs to know that you care enough to support him or her through the difficult time. Yes, just knowing is enough. Offer your support. Ask what you can do.
People are afraid to confront their grief for fear if they'd open the door they would be drowned in a flood of tears or rage, and yes, that may be the reason why you'd rather stay away in your comfort zone, working hard and filing your five year old payments somewhere in your storage room than approach someone whose story could activate your 'minefield' of emotions. Though it is unlikely to burst in rage and pour rivers of tears out, allowing others to help in our grieving is good insurance that we will keep our balance, and the more we acknowledge these reactions, rather than stop them, the better we will be off afterwards. If you are aware of this, it may be easier for you to approach the grieving person.
If you would like to be there for him or her, have patience and abstain from trying to ‘fix’ that person. Those soothing words that might instantly be created in your mind, such as ‘you will be fine’, or ‘just give it time’ or ‘ you will meet another’…, may not be useful or as well accepted as one may think. It is a most natural response to try to ‘fix’ their grief. Reality is that you cannot fix things for them. There is nothing you can say to make them feel better about their loss, hence there are details that you can do to provide comfort and support during this difficult time.
The most important of all is to offer a willing ear and listen without judgement, when this person wants to open up to you. Allow the bereaved person to talk and express their grief. This may include anger outburst, crying, expressions of guilt or regret, or engaging in activities that reduce their stress, such as walking or gardening, and, believe it or not, even screaming. Try to concentrate all your efforts on listening carefully and with compassion.
Everyone's experience of grief is unique, so let them grieve their own way. Try to suspend all judgement and avoid disputing their responses to their loss.
It is good to just let the person be in case he or she doesn't feel like talking. You are comforting the person already by being there, and sitting together in silence can be extremely helpful to him or her.
Depends on each individual, holding the person's hand or giving a hug can be helpful, just make sure you check that it’s okay with the person in grief.
You can show your care by offering practical help, such as housework, answering the telephone for the person, bringing over some pre-cooked meals.
If the time permits, you may offer yourself to take over some of their regular duties, such as picking up the children from school, or driving them to after school activities, etc.
The grieving process may take a very long time. Try not to suggest that one should move on with life. Appreciate that grieving may continue in different ways for the rest of this person’s life. We are all different and grieving does not just stop from one day to another.
When the deceased person’s name spontaneously comes up in conversation, try not to change the subject. The person in grief needs to know that their loved one hasn't been forgotten. You can use the name of the deceased in conversation.
Remember, there will be some days throughout the year that will be particularly difficult for the person to bear, such as anniversaries, holidays, significant events and the deceased's birthday or other important points. Be sensitive to these times and offer your support.
If you want to get an insight of how a grieving person might feel, read this excellent page written by Sarah Parmenter from UK. It is a precious account about her own loss, about what details would have made the process easier for her, and what would help her at the time if her friends had known how to approach her. http://lifehacker.com/the-things-about-grief-nobody-tells-you-1383119181