How to support someone experiencing grief

Published: 7/9/2022

When someone you care about is grieving a loss, it can be difficult to know what to say or how you can help and support. You can't fix their pain but your presence is more important than you know. Don't let the discomfort of the situation prevent you from reaching out to your loved one who is grieving.

Everyone goes through grief in their own way and more often feels isolated and alone. As someone close to them, you don't need to have answers, give advice or say the right thing, just being there with them is enough.

Reach out

Check in on your loved one and express your sympathy. Be genuine in your communication, acknowledge things are hard and maintain support, as your loved one will continue grieving long after the funeral is over. Continue to check in, call or message even to say a quick "hello" or "how are you?", you may find it useful to set reminders in your calendar.

Offer practical support

Be specific when offering help and gestures. Don't ask if you can "do anything to help" just do it. You can prepare a few dinners for the week or help with the weekly shop. If they have children, offer to pick them up from school or look after their pets. You can take care of all housework duties including important phone calls.  Remember, the smallest gestures can be the biggest help.

Listen more, talk less

Be willing to sit in silence and listen to your loved one. Often, the way people grieve and process their trauma is to talk about it and open up to the people they trust most. Make space for their words without feeling like you need to say something. If you can't think of something to say, give a comforting hug, wrap your arm around them or hold their hand. Don't be quick to offer advice if they haven't asked for it, being their shoulder to cry on can make a world of difference to a person's wellbeing.

Understand the grieving process

Everyone grieves differently and does not always unfold in a linear way, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It can be an unpredictable rollercoaster filled with emotional highs and lows. It's important to avoid telling your loved one how they "should" be feeling or doing.  There is no timeline for grief, try not to pressure your loved one to move on too soon or make them feel they can't express their emotions and vulnerability.

Share an enjoyable activity

Sometimes taking their mind off the trauma even for a little while can be comforting. A leisurely walk or hike in nature is good for the soul and calming. Taking them for a day out to the movies or an activity they enjoy can be uplifting, whether it's sports, painting or a DIY project.

Ask questions

Often people are hesitant about asking questions to someone who is grieving as they are worried they will say the wrong thing. Don't be afraid to ask and check in on your loved ones self care and wellbeing such as, how are they sleeping, have they had enough to eat? Find out how they are feeling emotionally and listen with compassion.

Offer extra support on special occasions

There will be days and times every year that will be hard for your loved one to go through. Whether it's a birthday, anniversary, family milestone or Christmas season, these times will often reignite their grief and trauma. Show empathy and sensitivity around those special days, and let them know you're there for them and free for anything they need. Even if it's a phone call or message, give little and often.

Through support and a comforting presence you can help your loved one cope with their pain and loss as they slowly begin to heal their grief over time.

On the 8th September, it's R U OK Day. It's a national day to remind Australians that everyday you can ask the simple question, "Are you OK?".

This has the potential to be a powerful and meaningful conversation, whenever a person notices the signs their loved one or someone they know is struggling with life whether it's grief or mental health. A daily reminder, one conversation can change someone's life…

For more information visit www.ruok.org.au/ here.

By Alana Dintinosante

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