The realm of grief and trauma covers a broad range from loss of a job or relationship to the threat and reality of terrorism and war.
Regardless of the event that triggers grief, people who are grieving are in emotional pain and it is important for us to assist our brothers and sisters in their pain.
Here are some things we can do to help. This is by no means a complete list - a trained professional may be able to address and provide specific techniques for helping others with grief not mentioned here.
Understand Your Presence Is Helpful
Just be there. It is not so important what you say, the mere fact that you are present can make a profound difference.
Try not to fix or move the one you are supporting through grief - allow them to move at their own pace.
Be handy with tissues, listening, sharing, making eye-contact, holding hands, a gentle hug. All of these non-verbal gestures convey the message, "I am here and I acknowledge your pain and suffering."
Be sensitive to the mourning period. Keep checking in even several months later, depending on the severity of the loss they may still need you.
While grieving, most people tend to starve themselves. Providing food that is high in nutrients and is easy to eat is best such as wholesome finger foods like fruits, vegetables or chicken.
Try for things that are quick to eat, clean and show you care. Remember to ask about and follow your loved ones' eating habits.
Chances are they will not remember when or what they ate last. Be cautious about overeating, as it may be a way to medicate unresolved past trauma or grief.
Offer Support For Their Decisions
Mourners are typically depressed people. When depressed, people do not tend to make great decisions; they simply don't care to do so.
Try to have them put off big decisions as much as possible. For those that cannot be put off, try to gather or provide as much support as possible to help your loved one make the best decision possible. Try to get a designated spokesperson if possible.
Go With Your Intuition
Use your intuitions. If you believe your loved one is sinking into deep depression over their loss, they probably are. If you think they are not eating, sleeping well or lack adequate coping skills, you are probably correct. Pay attention to EVERYTHING in order to better assist their recovery period.
While grieving, some people have huge mood swings going from complete shock and inability to respond, to talking nonstop. When your loved one begins to share, whatever they share, just listen and keep listening. Keep them talking while they are capable of it. Whether it makes sense to you or not does not matter, their mind is processing the reality of their situation. Talking is healing.
Whether you give time, food, flowers, money, or yourself, giving to the mourner is critical. Sometimes just answering the phone can be too much for them. Simple tasks such as bill paying, opening mail, laundry, dishes, getting groceries, can be too overwhelming for your loved one. But be careful, let them know what you are doing so that you don't unwittingly cause more pain.
Let Them Cry
Often we tell mourners not to cry. We do this because we hate to see them in pain, but we are also afraid of our own pain. Don't force them to hide their pain by rejecting them. The best thing you can do is comfort them, even cry with them. Whatever you do, don't make them stop!
It's natural to want to shield our loved ones from pain. However, being a part of the grieving process can help later when they are ready to heal. Also, shielding them too much may cause them even greater pain in the end. Be prepared for them to reject being involved. Don't force them if they do not want to be involved in key decisions. Let them go at their own pace.
Try Poetry, Singing, And Other Forms Of Comfort
Reading poetry, or singing songs of support, religion, and love often provide comfort to the grieving. Put together a scrapbook of special memories.
By: Kathleen Dwyer Blair, LCSW, BCD