How to Support Someone Who is Grieving
Our hearts naturally go out to someone who has lost a loved one through death. We want to do something to help ease the pain, but feel inadequate to the task, knowing that no words are sufficient.
There may be nothing we can do to ease the pain of the loss. We can, however, write a note or give support in another way so that the grieving individual doesn't feel all alone. A small, thoughtful gift included with the card can help express your feelings.
People handle grief differently. Some people like to have people with them in a visible manner. There are others who prefer to grieve quietly. If your friend or relative is among those in the first group, you might ask if they would be open to having the company of close friends who come over occasionally to pray with and for them. Such prayer circles can be extremely comforting to those of religious faith. For those who do not have a particular faith, light circles or other group means of sharing love and support are also very effective in reducing feelings of isolation.
For those whose preference is to grieve quietly, such circles can meet apart from the bereaved, and send some token of their shared prayers and/or other shared thoughts for their friend. Individual visits can then respect the desire for more solitary grieving while still showing concern.
What to say or do can be complicated by how the person died.
When there has been a long illness, the family may be feeling relief that the long ordeal is over and their loved one is out of pain and at peace. At the same time they may feel guilt because they feel relief.
When there is a sudden death, the family will be in shock. They have not had the time to prepare themselves for their loss as does someone who loses someone after a long illness. The family may also be coping with guilt, anger, even rage over the death.
Suicide results in complicated bereavement. Imagine the rage you would feel at the one who murdered your loved one and the grief you would have at the loss. With suicide, rage and grief are focused on the same individual. There is also the guilt about, "What did I do wrong?" and, "I should have done more." and "How could I have not known?"
Loss of a child is particularly devastating. No parent expects their child to die before they do. Depending upon the circumstances, the feelings may be shock, anger, guilt, or a complex combination of all these reactions.
When you want to give support, think about what you would want under the circumstances. There will be variations depending upon the personality of the grieving, but it will give you a place to start.
Below are suggested shows of support.
Send a card. If you knew the one who has died, share your favorite story about him or her. These stories make your note more personal.
If you have a photo you believe the family will enjoy, send it to them with a note.
Make a donation to a cause relevant to the one in grief or to the deceased. Be sensitive. Don't make a donation to an organization you know the person does not support.
Many of our customers have written to tell us that they have purchased our shawls and scarves for bereaved friends and relatives. They have put them in the center of prayer circles, and imbued them with the love and empowerment of their prayers. When those in grief then wrap themselves in the shawls or wear the scarves, they are instantly reminded of those who pray for them. The inherent comfort and sensory response to the silk, and the beauty of the designs, aid in the healing.
When you visit with the grieving, share stories.
Never be afraid to talk about the one who has died to those who love him or her. It doesn't matter how long or soon it has been since the death.
Grieving takes time. The individual will not "be over" the loss in 2 or 3 months. It usually takes a good 18 months for there to be some normalcy. One of the frequent comments I hear is, "It hasn't been that long, but people think I should be over his death by now."
Allow your friend or family member to talk as much as s/he wants and needs about what happened and about the loved one.
Remember what my grandmother once said, "The grief never really goes away. It just gets further away."
If you have never lost someone to death, then you may not realize how comforting it is to have cards, notes, thoughtful gifts and stories. If you have lost someone, then you know. Do what helped you the most or what you most would have liked.
© 2009, The Healing Silks Company. Cathy Chapman, Ph.D. LCSW has her doctorate in Mind-Body Psychology and is a Licensed Master Social Worker who has work in the area of grief for 30+ years. Diana Wesley, Energy Psychology Therapist, Founder of Healing Silks Company. www.HealingSilks.com