How to Help Someone In Denial?
When a loved one dies, it is natural to feel lost and in denial of what just happened. For many of us, losing a loved one seems surreal, and accepting their deaths may take time. However, when grief and denial take over, life can start to feel hopeless.
If someone you know has recently lost someone, they might be on the verge of going through the stages of grief, starting with denial. As a friend or a family member, your first instinct is to help. However, grief is a susceptible subject, and your actions and what you say can strike the wrong notes, causing your friend or family member to react negatively. If you’re looking for ways to help someone in denial, follow the recommendations from our funeral specialists.
Understanding Grief and Denial
It is essential to understand that grief is a natural response we all experience after the loss of a loved one. Denial is usually the first step of the grieving process as most people have a hard time accepting their loss. Denial is sometimes referred to as our body’s defense mechanism to cope with traumatizing events, such as death.
How to Know if Someone Is in Denial?
Everyone experiences grief differently, the same way they experience and showcase denial differently. Denial helps us pace and process our feelings in a way we can manage. Otherwise, the overwhelming sea of emotions can be too much to handle and lead to a meltdown. To know if a friend or family member is experiencing denial, stay alert for these signs if they:
- Continue to speak of their lost loved one in the present tense
- Refuse to believe their loved one died
- Pretend their loved one is away on a trip
- Leave their loved ones’ items exactly as they left them
- Refuse to talk about the death
- Start downplaying their relationship with the deceased
- Avoid going home or stay busy at all times
While these signs are not necessarily experienced all together, and no one needs to experience all of them to be in denial, they are good indications that a loved one is in denial.
5 Ways to Help Someone in Denial
Helping a friend or a family member with denial can be daunting as you don’t want to say or do something that may upset them in any way. If you’re going to help someone in denial, make sure you give them the necessary space to heal and grieve at their own pace.
1. Recognize the Grieving Process
Everyone experiences grief differently. Even though experts believe we go through the five stages of grief in the following order: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance; that doesn’t mean everyone follows that order. As a supportive family member or friend, you must recognize that everyone’s grieving process is different and that they need to go through to start the healing process.
2. Give Them Space
While it is tempting to keep checking on a grieving friend, they also need space. With denial, they may have a difficult time going back home, going back to their routine, and doing certain activities. All you can do is give them space and time to experience these emotions and process them at their own pace. Let them know it is okay to show their feelings and participate in their sorrow. They need to know their home, and their space is safe for them to experience their grief as they wish.
3. Continue to Offer Support
Even though you want to give them space, you want to make sure you’re still offering them your support. Express your continuous support, slowly mention the facts about the death of their loved one, but don’t push it. You want to make sure you’re not there to judge them but to help them go through this incredibly devastating loss. Other ways to offer support include helping with errands, caring for their children, and calling or visiting every once in a while.
4. Help With Arrangements
One of the most straightforward ways to help someone overcome denial is by helping them with the funeral arrangements. When it comes to processing the death of a loved one, organizing their funeral and burial arrangements is an instant dose of reality. However, for those experiencing denial, they may not even connect these arrangements with the loss of their loved ones. As a supportive friend, helping them with arrangements can show them you’re there to help them continue moving forward.
5. Recommend Help
Lastly, helping a friend who is in denial can be extremely challenging. If you are unsure of how to help them navigate their grief, you may want to consider recommending help. There are bereavement groups that can help those struggling with the loss of a loved one. These are often available at local mental health care facilities, or may even be available as online grief support groups. Be mindful when you recommend help, the last thing you’d want to do is offend them. If you’re having difficulty finding the words to recommend help, talk to the funeral director as they can be great liaisons at suggesting support.
Should I Be Worried?
Almost everyone experiences denial through their grief process. However, there are specific occasions that should be alarming, such as a family member or friend resorting to chemicals such as drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes to block the pain of their loss. Denial can often lead to depression when it’s overlooked. As a friend or family member, you need to stay on high alert at depression signs such as trouble sleeping, lack of energy, anxiety, poor appetite, and crying episodes.
If you know someone who’s experiencing denial after the loss of a loved one and are unsure how to help, our funeral specialists are available. Our funeral specialists have experience with supporting grieving families through their losses. Beyond funeral arrangement services, our funeral specialists are caring counselors that help grieving families with their loss. Contact The Gardens of Boca Raton for a private counseling session with those you love and slowly start the road to acceptance and healing.