How to help a friend struggling with grief, according to the experts

It could be Grief Awareness Week but, as anyone who has struggled with it will know, grief is something that lasts 365 days of the year.

Although grieving and dying, a feeling of loss or loss can be more overwhelming in certain points and less overwhelming in others – it never leaves.

It’s one of the hardest things we have to deal with as humans and as such, it can be hard to know how to help a loved one who is struggling with it.

Often, grieving people talk about the initial support you received – such as right after a loss. But as time goes on, there is an expectation that you will start to return to ‘normal’, which can be extremely difficult and isolating.

And This time of year can be especially difficult.

“Christmas is a time to celebrate, party wildly and be super sociable, but when someone is grieving, this may not be what they want to do,” explains psychotherapist Somia Zaman.

‘Those who are carrying sadness can still long for company, but also feel a sense that they don’t want to bring others down,’ she said. ‘This conundrum can make them feel especially lonely around Christmas.’

Somia adds that the first Christmas without a loved one is especially poignant and sad, as the memories of being together in previous years come flooding back.

“Over time, these memories will bring a sense of comfort and even joy,” she says. ‘However, at first they were all too raw and only added to the pain. “

What can you do to support a loved one struggling with grief?

No matter how difficult it is, the first thing to realize is that there isn’t really anything you can do or say to take away their pain.

Somia says: ‘Just being around a friend or family member who is having a hard time is the best thing you can do, whether that means checking in on them with a text or spending time sitting with them. when they grieve.’ ‘

‘You may feel helpless, but they don’t expect you to make it any better. Simply by being there, you are showing them that someone cares and can see that they are hurting. ‘

Somia suggests that offering to help with things when shopping or doing housework can be helpful, if someone feels overwhelmed and can’t handle these tasks on their own.

‘I would say it helps to let the grieving person take control of the situation,’ she suggests. ‘So ask them directly what you can do to help, rather than assuming. The last thing a grieving person needs is for you to decide to rearrange their kitchen cabinets if they don’t ask. ‘

On a practical level, if someone has recently experienced a loss, financial and legal issues can often create additional stress, says Dr. Venetia Leonidaki, Experts rated by Dr and is the founder of Spiral Psychology. She suggests: ‘Offer to help them find a good accountant or a lawyer, arrange the paperwork or settle existing debts.

‘The funeral arrangements were extremely stressful. Help them by getting a quote from the funeral home director or contact your local council Cemetery and Crematorium department. ‘

She also advises that ‘regularly calling or texting to check in with them will help them feel that you’re missing them.’

What should you say to a grieving friend?

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say – especially if you think someone is having a hard time but don’t talk about how they’re feeling.

“Starting a conversation about their overall well-being is always a good place to start,” suggests Somia. ‘This can then gently lead to questions like ‘do you feel you might need some support getting things going right now? ‘

Linda Gask, Psychiatrist and author of Finding the True North, recommends using simple, non-supposition questions such as: ‘How can I help?’ or ‘How are you?’ She added: ‘Not everyone wants to talk and it can be a while before a person is ready after a loss.’

Laura McDonald, BWRT mentality practitioner advises that statements can also be helpful, in addition to questions. Things like:

‘This must be a difficult time for you.’

‘I’m here if you need to talk, or just to have someone there.’

‘If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know’

‘We will be together on this day, you are very welcome to join us, if not we completely understand, just let us know if we can help you in any way.’

This can help a person feel supported without setting any expectations that make them feel as though they have to give an answer to what they are being asked.

Grieving people can still yearn for social company (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

What should you not say to a grieving friend?

Somia says: ‘Avoid comforting phrases like ‘time is a great healer’. ‘While statements like this often come from a good place, it may not be what someone wants to hear.

‘When you are deep in grief, there is no feeling that time will heal and it seems like the speaker is trying to ease your feelings.’

Gary Bloom, clinical psychotherapist, suggests not saying things like: ‘I know exactly how you feel’, or ‘I was there’.

“While the intention is good, it can be very destructive – no one knows how other people feel,” he said. It completely takes away the person’s pain and makes it all about the person who said it. ‘

Laura says: It’s really important not to try to offer suggestions or encouragement to feel ‘better’.

For example, avoid saying things like: ‘Going out / going out together would be great! It will take your mind off it! ‘

‘Again, when told with good intentions, this can alleviate the person’s grief, as if you were just distracting yourself,’ she said. ‘It won’t make the pain go away.’

Laura also advises against saying useless things like: ‘Cheer up, it’s Christmas!’ or ‘Your loved one wants you to be happy’. This can bring guilt as well as grief.

Marie Friend says: Healing with harmonious eggs.

She added: ‘Feelings of anxiety and high emotional stress can flood the body with cortisol and weaken the immune system. It’s no surprise that people can be wiped out and drowned in grief, which can be a literally altered state of affairs.

‘It’s important to remember that grieving is physically demanding, as well as mental.’

What if it’s an acquaintance?

Somia suggests: “While you obviously won’t be involved to the same extent, you can still support a grieving coworker or neighbor over Christmas.

‘Checking them in with a knock on the door or a quick text will help them feel less alone in their sadness. Let them know you are thinking of them and are happy to offer practical help if required. ‘

Importantly, don’t avoid talking about someone’s loss, or avoiding their grief, because you’re not sure what to say. You’d better say something, than nothing.

“It is important to show signs of support,” says Marie. ‘Don’t feel as though you have to go on tiptoes and act like nothing happened, to avoid emotional interactions. In your own words, it helps to show understanding and compassion. ‘

“Sometimes words don’t need to be,” she added. ‘The energy you give someone can speak volumes.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve

Somia says: “Everybody copes with grief differently, and there are no major milestones you should hit a month, six months or a year after death.

She said: ‘It’s important not to make judgments about whether someone is grieving correctly if they seem completely unaffected by their loss, or otherwise just can’t stop crying. .

‘Be prepared for any kind of reaction and stay open and empathetic to what they’re going through.’

According to Somia, when someone is still raw about a loss that happened a while ago, it helps you remember that the pain is still very real to that person.

She says: “Again, keep your judgment on what ‘healthy grieving’ is and provide as much practical and emotional support as you can.

She added that, ‘if someone doesn’t seem to be working through their pain in any way or their mood seems to be getting worse, it may be worth them to talk to their GP. them about some counseling or psychotherapy.’

Private help will also be available if they can afford it.

There is no timeline in grief

“Grief doesn’t have a time schedule,” says Marie. ‘It gets smaller and more manageable and you start to learn to swim instead of drowning. But it’s always been there, it’s only getting more manageable. ‘

Dr Leonidaki agrees: “The process takes place, although the stages are not linear or identical for every deceased person. People can go back and forth, and there is no definite time limit on how long they will stay in each.

She added that the exact circumstances of death, and the nature of the relationship with the deceased, will color the grieving process.

“Every person’s pain is different and there are no rules to follow,” she said.

‘There is no space for judgment when people experience a loss. Each person’s individual response to loss should be respected. Be kind to the bereaved and encourage them to be kind to themselves. ‘

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Tom Vazquez

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