Helping Someone With Grief
We’ve all heard about the five stages of grief, but once we lose someone we love, it’s tough to understand just what to do when those stages affect us individually. Also, if someone else in your life is dealing with a loss, you’ll want to know just what to expect as they go through the grieving process.
What can you do to help yourself, or someone you know, cope with the five stages of grief?
The loss of a loved one affects many of us differently, from an unexpected loss to a death after a prolonged illness. Everyone is different, and everyone copes differently, but there are some things we can do to help them cope.
The 5 Stages of Grief: Helping Others
Our grief is just a natural response to any loss in our life, but especially the death of a loved one. There’s a void in their life, and grief helps them try to figure out how to fill that void.
Stage 1: Denial
Refusing to believe something happened is quite common, and it’s a mental mechanism that actually helps us survive the loss. At this point, nothing makes sense and we become numb to the world. Our minds try to protect us by only letting in so many feelings at once. Being there for someone, allowing them to work through their disbelief, is one way to help them. Don’t try to get them to make any decisions, just be there and let them slowly process it all.
Stage 2: Anger
Once we’ve wrapped our heads around what has happened, we get angry. It’s not fair that this has happened to your friend, it’s not fair that it happened to you – it’s just not fair. The anger will be directed everywhere, including at God, at doctors, at friends and even at the person that died. There might even be some irrational anger pointed at someone that’s not even involved over something that happened at the funeral. Unfortunately, anger can be good, as long as it’s mostly shared in private, so try to help someone that’s blowing up in anger by directing them into another room.
Stage 3: Bargaining
This is where a lot of “What if” questions arise, as those dealing with a loss wonder what we could have done differently, or how we/someone could have prevented this tragedy. This is our attempt to negotiate our way out of the pain, and try to trade one type of pain for another. Just listening to someone go through these questions is a way to help them, as they eventually come to the realization that these questions are irrational in nature.
Stage 4: Depression
Your biggest task will be helping your grieving friend get through this stage of grief. Help them in any way they need, which could mean being there just to listen to them talk, being there to just keep them from being too lonely, or just helping them by giving them some space. People deal with depression differently, but know that one sure way to help someone through this is to have them move physically. Try to get them to take a walk with you while they talk. The physical exertion will help both their minds and their bodies.
Stage 5: Acceptance
While it’s true that most people will never be fine with the fact that they lost their loved one, they can eventually come to grips with it, and move on with their lives. Acceptance means they’re learning to live their new lives without their loved one, which could mean reorganizing their lives. Sometimes, that makes someone feel like they’re betraying the memory of a loved one, but that’s why you’re there to help them understand that it’s not a bad thing. Helping them meet new people and experience new things is a great way to help someone through that final stage.
Helping someone cope with the five stages of grief means you’ll be there for them. Imagine your friend has been injured and you are helping them get from one place to another, whether that means you are carrying them, letting them lean on you, or just talking with them while they walk, you are there for them.
When a friend or a loved one loses someone important in their lives, we often feel helpless while they are grieving. This doesn’t have to be the case, of course, and there are plenty of things you can try helping someone else deal with grief.
Most often we feel like we have to deliver some sage advice that will wipe away their grief with a warm, soothing cloth, but in fact, grief takes time, no matter what you do. But you can certainly help someone understand that you’re there for them, and you can help lessen their grief with some well-thought out actions.
5 Ways to Help Someone Dealing With Grief
Being there for them is the very best thing you can do – but just being there is part of the process. Here are some other things you can do to lessen their pain.
Immediately Acknowledge Their Loss
Don’t wait too long to get in contact with your friend to let them know you how you found out, and that you care about them. They need to know they aren’t alone and that people are ready to help.
You also don’t want to try and change how the person feels or is grieving. Grieving is a personal issue, and we all might do it differently, so don’t try to change it.
Listen to Them More Than You Talk to Them
Our advice isn’t as valuable as what they’ll do for themselves by talking through the grief. You want them to talk about their loved one, including how they died. You need to listen with genuine interest and make sure they realize you want them to talk about it.
Psychologists explain that if the death was unexpected, possibly by an act of violence, it’s important to the person dealing with the loss to know that you are willing to hear about the horrible details. You obviously don’t need to be pushy, but let them know you’re willing. This would be a traumatic event for anyone, and they need to know they don’t have to go through this event alone.
Say the Right Things at the Right Time
It’s important to know that there is very little that you can say that will help the situation, but there are definitely plenty of things they can say that will hurt the situation. Don’t explain how their lost one might be in a better place, and don’t point out any “good” things that might come from their loss, like remarrying or insurance. Your good intentions will often result in a painfully insulting statement that just doesn’t need to be said.
This happens to also go along with what we said earlier – listen more than you talk.
Don’t Ask Them to Call You – Just Be There
A lot of times, we might tell them, “Let me know if you need anything,” but most people aren’t going to reach out like that because they’ll think they’re bothering them. They also don’t even know what they need right now, other than for a death to be undone. Tell them what you’re going to do – then do it. In other words, tell them, “I’m bringing you dinner Tuesday night and we can talk.” Or say something like, “I’m going to pick your kids up this week and take them to school, so don’t worry about that.” Then – make sure you do what you say!
Join Them For the Tough Tasks
Remember that in the first few days after someone has to deal with the loss of a loved one, there are several difficult tasks they have to accomplish in order for a funeral to happen. Rearrange your personal schedule so that you can join them to go shop for caskets or to look at different funeral homes. One especially difficult item someone will need to do is to pack up their loved one’s things. Ask them when you can help them, not if you can help them.
The Gardens of Boca Raton Cemetery and Funeral Services deals with grieving ones daily, and the people there are great advisors if you’re helping someone else deal with grief. They’ll also know all the tasks someone will need to accomplish before moving on can begin.