It can feel difficult to know how to support someone who is grieving. Grief is unique to every person, and everyone will have their own ways of dealing with it. For people around them, like friends and family, it can be hard to know how to support them and what to say. It’s also natural to feel worried that you might accidentally say the wrong thing or upset them as they process their feelings. In this blog, we’ve explored ten ways to support someone who is grieving.
- Communicate mindfully
Strike a balance between ensuring they know you’re there for them but not overwhelming them. It’s normal when grieving to want time alone to process and heal, but staying silent can make the person grieving feel more alone and isolated. It’s worth letting them know you’re there if they need anything or someone just to listen, but that they don’t have to respond if they’re not up for it. Adapting to life after a loss can take time, so being mindful of your communication and striking the right balance is a meaningful way to support someone going through a hard time.
- Encourage them to write down their feelings
Sometimes it’s easier to write things down rather than trying to articulate difficult feelings and emotions. Writing, or even drawing, is a good release and a great way for them to get their emotions out. The important thing is that your loved one doesn’t bottle everything up and keep everything inside. So, whether they’re writing their feelings down, drawing as a way of releasing emotions, or talking about them, try to encourage them to feel comfortable enough to communicate
- Recommend useful media, including books and podcasts
Breaking the taboo around grief is really important, and there are some incredible trailblazers who have done a fantastic job in knocking down those walls. The Good Mourning podcast is a superb platform, and Sally and Imogen have built a global community thanks to their open conversations about grief and loss (you can read our interview with these two amazing women in this blog).
Special books about grief are also excellent resources for anyone grieving. For example, Things I’ve Learned About Loss by Dana Shields, The Madness of Grief by Reverend Richard Coles, It’s OK That You’re Not OK by Megan Devine.
- Offer practical support and assistance
On a practical level and depending on the circumstances of the death, your loved one might need help with funeral arrangements or paperwork like insurance forms or bills, doing the housework, driving them where they need to go, looking after their pets or picking up their children from school. People who are grieving might not want to ask for help as they might worry they’re a burden. Bear that in mind and be specific instead of being general. For example, instead of saying, “I’m here if you need anything”, say “I’ve cooked some meals that you can pop in the freezer, when can I drop them around?” or “I’m going to the supermarket later this week, send over a list of everything you need, and I’ll pick it up for you.”
- Thoughtful presents can help someone who is grieving
Sympathy cards and flowers are a lovely touch. Or you might want to create your own comfort package with some of their favourite things to bring a smile to their face, like food, drink, treats and maybe a candle, book or toiletries. If you’re looking for something meaningful that they can treasure forever, we have designed a range of memorial and bereavement jewellery that’s been sympathetically created with love and care to offer a beautiful way of remembering somebody and keeping them close forever.
- Suggest a way to pay tribute to their lost loved one on an anniversary or birthday
On days like birthdays and anniversaries, there are some beautiful ways to pay tribute to someone who has passed. However, understandably, it can take time to feel OK celebrating their memory. If the grief is still fresh or they don’t feel ready, it might be too soon for this, but it’s worth considering for the future. Some people dealing with loss find it comforting to visit the resting place of their loved ones. They might decide to put flowers on a grave or at a place where ashes have been scattered, or to sit and say a prayer or a few words. Others might like to use the day to celebrate their loved ones, perhaps by raising a toast, cooking their favourite meal, or inviting friends and family around to remember them and tell their favourite stories.
- Let them know it’s OK to skip any difficult days or periods
As mentioned above, it can take a while to get to the stage where the shock of a loss has settled enough to celebrate a person’s life and memory. Similarly, there can be difficult days and periods for people grieving, like Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, for example. These periods might feel incredibly overwhelming for the person who is grieving. If it is, encourage them to do whatever will make them feel better, whether it’s a more straightforward fix like turning off the TV and taking a break from social media or distracting them with a break away somewhere different for a change of scenery.
- Remind them they’re not alone, and they’ll get through it
It’s normal for people to feel alone and isolated when grieving because what they’re going through is so overwhelming and intense. Taking the time to extend a helping hand and letting them know you’re there for them will remind them that they’re not alone, that they’re loved and supported, and that they will get through it, no matter how long it takes. Remind them to take each day at a time.
- Talk about the person
When someone dies, it can feel difficult to talk about them. It’s normal to be conscious that you don’t want to upset the person grieving, but a lot of the time, they’ll appreciate the opportunity to talk about the person’s memory and find it comforting to remember them. Again, this might take a little bit of time for them to get to this feeling, but when they’re ready, you could ask them to tell you about their favourite memories of them.
- Help them find professional help if they’re struggling
There’s help out there for people who are really struggling, including telephone support, such as The Samaritans. They can also access bereavement counselling via their GP or privately. The NHS also suggests contacting a support organisation, such as Cruse Bereavement Care.