Whenever a loved one is experiencing immense grief following the death of someone close to them, our instinct is to fix the hurt. If it were up to us, we’d love to be able to present a magic pill that makes them feel all better—after all, all pain is the same, right? Wrong.
Unfortunately, grief, unlike bodily pain, is best processed rather than masked or avoided. Assisting people in processing their grief is a task few that of us have adequate training or experience. There are, however, many aims one can bring to a relationship to assist our loved ones in their grief processing.
1. Aim to support, not fix.
If a loved one suddenly broke a limb, our first instinct would not be to attempt to set the bone. We know that we’re not qualified to that, and if we tried, we would likely cause more harm and pain than good. What we do instead is aim to stabilize the wound to assist them in their healing process. Instead of trying to maneuver a bone back into place, we’re better off acting as the pillow beneath the wound.
Such is the same attitude to have toward supporting someone experiencing immense grief. While you’re likely not the doctor who delivers the curative treatment, you can definitely be the sling beneath the cast that keeps the broken arm stable so the healing can take place.
2. Aim to relieve the pressures you can.
Telling a grieving person that everything will be ok or that you can fix the problem is not helpful or truthful. Giving this kind of false assurance may even prolong their grief in the way a phony remedy may prolong an ailment. So, what can you do? You can offer your services in relieving what is within your grasp.
Many people experiencing immense grief may be slow to rebound simply due to the responsibilities of daily life. Even though it may feel like the world stops when a loved one dies, it does not — and simply keeping the plates of daily life spinning can make processing grief a drawn-out process.
Instead of assuring them of relief or withdrawing completely, there is a beneficial middle road — providing practical assistance.
- Offer to run errands for them.
- Bring over freezer-ready meals for days they don’t feel like cooking.
- Coordinate rides for their children to their various activities with people they know.
- Present the support you know they need but may feel awkward about asking for.
This leads us to the best you can be of service to a grieving loved one...
3. Aim to be an active listener — not a source of answers.
One of the most supportive activities you can perform for a grieving friend may not seem like an activity at all — listening. The loss of a loved one can leave one feeling incredibly isolated. Simply having a friend to listen or even just share the same space can be an immensely comforting presence — a respite from yelling into the void of one’s own emotions. Shouldering their emotional burden can help them feel that some of the weight of the world is relieved, giving them the space to feel vulnerable and, ultimately, to heal.
- When you encounter your grieving friend, don’t feel the need to distract them from their woes.
- Let them sit behind the wheel of the conversation — you’re simply a passenger.
- Don’t feel the need to fill any silence with words of consolation.
- Silence or simply you sharing the space may be precisely what they need.
Sharing the silence with them may be one of the greatest gifts you can offer.
Supportive Palliative & Hospice Care in the Greater Tulsa Area
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