When We Are Grieving:
Loss, whether expected or unexpected, can feel overwhelming and affect all parts of our lives. Grieving is a very personal and individualized process, one which has no timeline. There is no right way to grieve. The following are some helpful reminders for when we have experienced loss (please see this helpguide for a more complete list of common symptoms of grief and helpful ways to respond):
- For emotional healing to occur, it is most helpful to acknowledge our pain when it presents itself.
- Feeling sad, frightened, angry, numb, and/or lonely are all normal reactions to loss.
- It is helpful to look to your existing supports – those people who have been helpful to you in the past – when grieving
- Look to experiences in which you have found helpful guidance, meaning, and reassurance. This can be a personal faith or spiritual orientation, social group, or activity.
- Utilize specialized support systems as needed: counseling, grief support groups, pastoral care, healthcare.
Helping Others Who Are Grieving:
We can sometimes feel anxious or unsure about how to talk to others who are grieving. Below are some suggestions and guidelines for how to be supportive and helpful to other who have experienced loss:
- Don’t let discomfort, fear, or uncertainty stand in the way of making contact and being a friend. Communicate to them: “I’m here.”
- Decide on a concrete task to you can assist with and offer to do it (i.e., doing laundry, cleaning up, bringing food/doing the shopping, taking care of a child for a few hours). Ask them what would be helpful, remembering that sometimes your quiet presence is more than enough.
- Be available and listen. Sometimes those who are grieving are feeling many differing emotions at once. Let them know you hear their words and feelings without judging them or taking them personally.
- There are no rules to grieving – some may need to talk about details related to their loss, and some may not. Some may want to get back into their routine quickly, and some may need some extra time. Remind them to listen and trust what they need in the moment. Exercise patience with those who are grieving.
- Encourage self-care. Encourage bereaved people to attend to physical needs, postpone major decisions, allow themselves to grieve and to recover. Offer assistance with making plans, but allow them to set boundaries for themselves when needed.
- Check in with the bereaved person after 1, 2, 3, and 4 weeks. It can sometimes feel very lonely after the initial burst of support in the first days and week. Maintain a level of presence in their lives that you are comfortable with.
- Take care of yourself. Set boundaries for yourself so that you can maintain perspective and have the resilience to continue to support the person in their grieving.