Support for the grieving
Have you ever found yourself wondering what to say to someone who has lost somebody close to them? You may have felt a desperate need to offer some comforting words whilst also being afraid of saying something that may upset them further. The truth is, no matter how carefully you chose your words, there is a risk of upsetting them. You may feel that your words are woefully inadequate. You may be horrified to find your own emotions rising to the surface. However, I believe that attempting to offer words of comfort to someone in distress is better than saying nothing at all. At least you have shown that you care.
I offer here a few pointers on how to help someone who is in the early stages of grief.
1. Maintain some form of contact. They may not feel up to lengthy conversations yet, but a simple text or brief phone call can remind them that there are people who care.
2. Listen. When someone is pouring out their troubles the temptation may be to offer advice and try somehow to ‘fix’ things. It’s human nature as we want the person to feel better and we want to help. Try instead to just listen and sit with them in their grief. Someone who is grieving can often feel like a burden to those around them. Perhaps they feel that you’ve heard their story before and may not want to hear it again. Reassure them that this is not the case and that you want to support them by listening. Repeating stories connected to their grief can help them in their grieving process.
3. Make sure that any offers of help are genuine. Saying to someone “let me know if there is anything I can do to help” and then walking away may not be what they need at this time. Someone struggling with grief may feel unable to ask for help and may be totally unaware of what help they need. Offering to take them out for a walk or for a cup of coffee or another simple activity can help the person to feel that they are being looked after in some way. If they don’t feel up to going then don’t be offended. They may just need more time.
4. Be practical. Everyday activities can become incredibly difficult for those in the depths of grief. Offering help with childcare, fixing something in the home that is broken or simply mowing the lawn, especially if some of these tasks were previously carried out by the deceased, can help to ease the burden.
Grief is a life changing process. Anyone who has survived the rollercoaster ride of grief will testify to the fact that they are not the same person they once were. It takes time to adjust to their new life and their new view of life. Be patient, be kind, but most of all be present. Patience, kindness and the presence of those who care can be of great comfort to those on the grieving journey. Counselling and psychotherapy can help people to process their grief, but it should be acknowledged that support may be also be needed for those travelling with them.
“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing... not healing, not curing... that is a friend who cares.” Henri J.M. Nouwen
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About Sian Maman
Sian Maman is a counsellor and psychotherapist working within the New Dawn counselling centre in Beeston Nottingham as well as her own private practice in Nottinghamshire.