Dealing With Grief: Finding Your Role in the Support System

Dealing with grief is undoubtedly one of life’s biggest challenges, and the painful emotions often feel insurmountable to the bereaved. While you cannot possibly know what your loved one is experiencing on a personal, intimate level, you can help lessen the pain by facing this challenging period together.

Play a Supporting Role

When someone experiences loss, it is overwhelming to everyone involved, and people sometimes choose not to do or say enough for fear of making the situation worse. Instead of simply reminding your loved one to call if the need arises, let them know that you will be there at a specified date to provide a helping hand. Take over recurring tasks such as walking the dog or making dinner, or simply spend time with them when they need it.

Be a Source of Encouragement

Dealing with grief sometimes makes people feel ashamed, embarrassed, or weak. This is especially difficult if your loved one is not accustomed to showing vulnerability in front of others. Gently let this person know that it’s OK, and even encouraged, to fully embrace and acknowledge their feelings. Whether it’s anger, sadness, or confusion, coming to terms with the situation is crucial to achieving a healthy recovery over time.

Be Understanding

Every individual manages personal loss differently, resulting in behavioral patterns that may seem out of the norm to you. A person may become secluded, appear more distant and unresponsive, or lash out for no apparent reason. Allow the bereaved enough space, be understanding of the situation, and do not take such actions personally. Being aware of your loved one’s emotions is crucial, but it’s just as important to respect those emotions.

Don’t Minimize the Situation

While you should gently help your loved one on the road to recovery, remember that dealing with grief is a very personal experience. Refrain from enforcing your own beliefs to lessen your emotional discomfort. You may be inclined to highlight the positive, saying something like, “He’s in a better place now.” These statements may be well-intended on your part, but they can also degrade or otherwise minimize the situation at hand.

Offer Your Undivided Attention

To some, dealing with grief may involve an intense need to get things off their chest. Always aim to actively listen to everything being said. You won’t always know the right things to say to help remedy the situation, but you don’t need to — simply lending an ear may be just what your loved one is asking for.

As someone who has witnessed the loss of a close friend’s mother to terminal cancer, I understand that there is no definitive way to comfort a person who is grieving. Being there when it matters most, however, can gradually help them overcome their loss.

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