I am often asked- how can I help someone who is grieving? What are the ‘right’ things to say and do?
Here are 10 ways that you can help:
1) Acknowledge what has happened. You can do this in whatever way feels right for you and your relationship with the person. Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing. Saying something is better than nothing at all as long as it is from the heart.
2) Offer your support. Ask if there is anything you can help with. If it is in the early days there may be a degree of shock and disorientation, in which case gentle support and guidance to help them decide what needs to be done is invaluable. Equally the person may go into organizing mode, and keep very busy and seem not to require any practical help. Either way- it can be helpful to know you are there if needed.
3) Provide information if neccessary. Leaflets, helplines, citizens advice, local support organisations, food deliveries, sometimes just knowing a service is there should you need it is enough.
4) Bear to be with the grief– this might come in any shape or form and not always when you expect it. If they need to talk or cry, stay with it, giving them a space to express how they feel without trying to make them feel better or cheer them up is invaluable.
5) Empathy not sympathy. Try to understand their grief from their perspective, rather than offering your understanding of how you persoanlly might or have already felt in a similar situation.
6)Support doesn’t end after the funeral, all kinds of practical and emotional support may continue be useful. Consider the roles and tasks that the person you care about may now need to take on. Help with the school or brownies run, a lift to town, making an extra casserole, putting out a neighbours bin, helping with the probate, your thoughtfulness can make a big difference.
7) Remember to keep in touch. Just a simple text or call every now and then can let someone know you are thinking of them. They don’t need to reply, but it can be reassuring to know there is someone holding them in thought.
8) Grief takes time to process. A mixture of difficult but increasingly better, more managable days are likely. Ideally, someone will be able to move between life and grief. Its is usual to have moments where they feel completely overwhelmed, just as it is usual for them to be worried they are not upset ‘enough’. Sometimes reassurance can be useful. However if someone you care about seems to be stuck, or predominantly overwhelmed or vulnerable ask them how they feel they are doing. Perhaps encourage them to visit their GP to let them know how they are feeling so they can be monitored.
9) Plan Ahead: Remember birthdays and anniversaries. They most likely will, and its unlikely you will upset them by acknowledging dates that have been important for a lifetime. One of the loveliest gifts I have been made aware of is a calender gifted at Christmas for the New Year, with dates written in for birthdays, and special events, and arangements for cups of tea or sunday dinner and trips out.
10) Look after your self too. It is natural to find it difficult to see the people we care about so upset or disorientated. Warm drinks, balenced meals and exercise, noticing how you are feeling, having someone that you can to talk to, and getting enough sleep can help us to be in a better place to help others.
Tania Brocklehurst- April 2015