By: Jennifer Seip, LMFT, MA
Grief is sad. Grief is scary. Furthermore, grief is confusing. If you’ve experienced grief yourself, for someone you once knew, a family member, a friend, a lost loved one, or you’ve experienced it in the form of a break up or move, the you know about the pain. On the other hand, if you are new to grief, or have not been taught good strategies for how to be there for someone who is experiencing it, then it can be easy to avoid. Here is How To Help Someone Who Is Grieving.
Let’s be honest, no one wants to be the person who is grieving. The miserable and gut wrenching pain that follows when you experience loss is enough for anyone to reject. That is, unless they are obligated to face it.
Then how do you get through it? More specifically, how can you help someone get through their grief?
Help Someone Who Is Grieving With Empathy
Believe it or not, empathy can be learned in the form of cognitive empathy. Cognitive empathy is the ability to consciously recognize how someone else is feeling, and translate that into an understanding for what they are emotionally experiencing.
By using your power to cognitively empathize, you can become someone who is helpful during times of grief.
Listening is the first step.
Just being next to your grieving person and sitting with them while they talk about their feelings can make a world of difference. It’s likely that this person is feeling a sea of emotions, they need someone who will listen to their thoughts.
Help Someone Who Is Grieving By Not Rationalizing
Grief is not always rational and giving advice or telling someone not to think a certain way will only invalidate that persons experience. Instead, use supportive language like “of course you’re feeling sad.” or “it’s okay if you don’t have all of the answers right now.”
Grief is not one size fits all, so you shouldn’t be either.
Everyone grieves differently. Some people get angry right away and just want to stay angry. Some fall directly into despair and others just get numb. These are all normal responses to loss. Forcing someone to do what worked for you in the past might not equate when it comes to someone else. Likewise, don’t take it personally if you reach out for contact and the grieving person does not respond.
Help Someone Who Is Grieving By Reflecting Meaning
When you don’t know what else to say, Reflect meaning.
Being supportive during someone’s grief does not come naturally to a lot of people. However, it’s not an excuse to just be bad at it. Someone close to you is reaching out for help. When you all else fails, or you are at a loss for words, reflect back the feeling or meaning being communicated. Something like, “you’re in so much pain” or “you don’t know what your future will be like, and right now that worries you,” without anything else can go a long way.
Above all, if someone you are close to is grieving, take the time to be there. Support them, be available, and let them know you care.
Book Recommendations to Help Support Someone Who Is Grieving
Being There for Someone in Grief – Essential Lessons for Supporting Someone Grieving from Death, Loss and Trauma by Marianna Cacciatorre
The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss by George Bonanno, PhD
Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief by Jeffrey Rubin
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