At some point or other in all of our lives, we have or will experience the pain and dispair of the loss of a loved one be it a spouse, a parent, a child, a friend. Even though our grief may be long and deep, hopefully at some point we are able to press through it and recover to some semblance of wholeness. That's what this topic is about--how to help ourselves and others get through the processes of grief. Any and all suggestons are welcomed here. So please feel free to add yours.
7 Ways to Help Grieving the Loss of a Loved One
Here are seven suggestions on how you can help friends and family who are recently widowed:
Let them know it’s not a good idea to suppress tears and emotion.Suppressing grief can result in clinical depression. Besides, tears are a sign of love. They wouldn’t cry if they lost a trinket; it’s only because they lost a treasure. It is normal and healthy to feel that loss deeply.
Help them find a support group or a counselor.This person can reassure them that their grief is normal and assist them in processing it healthily, without getting overwhelmed or stuck.
Give them a good book about grief.It can provide valid information about what they are experiencing.
Remind them of all they still have to live for.That could include friends, children and/or grandchildren, creating a legacy that honors the spouse (which may include achieving goals they held as a couple) and doing things they always wanted to do but didn’t have the opportunity when the spouse was alive. A good phrase to use: The greatest memorial they can build to their spouse is to live life now as fully as possible, enriched by their memories.
At the same time, encourage them to tell the stories of, and remember, their spouse.Too many others expect them to “put it behind them” and move on. But forgetting is not the point of healing. You heal by remembering, processing the emotions and going forward into the future with the memories and lessons intact. Don’t be afraid to say the name of the deceased spouse and help keep their memories alive.
Encourage healthy eating, adequate water consumption and good sleep.These are three crucial factors in protecting immune systems. Recommend that they talk to their doctors if they temporarily need medical help to get good sleep or if they’d like the help of a nutritionist to figure out a healthy eating plan as a single person.
Ask about the things that have brought comfort in the past.Perhaps it is a soak in a hot tub, a walk through a forest preserve or along a beach, bird-watching, listening to music or getting a massage. Encourage them to regularly schedule those activities into their lives so they get moments of respite and renewal of their spirits.
While there are no guarantees that you can help widow and widowers regain health and happiness, these steps ensure you are doing everything you can to support them as they struggle to build a new future that is still well worth living.
Amy Florianis an educator, author, public speaker, and Founder/CEO ofCorgenius, the first professional training firm to focus on life transition support. With a style that combines grace, good-natured humor and rock solid science, Amy travels the country teaching financial advisors and other business professionals how to better serve clients experiencing loss, grief, and transition. She also educates clergy, hospice staff and volunteers, social workers and others who work with the grieving. Amy serves on the advisory board ofSoaring Spirits International,a nonprofit organization that provides support for widowed people around the globe.
"How long will the pain last?" a broken-hearted mourner asked me.
"All the rest of you life," I answered truthfully.
No matter how many years pass, we remember. The loss of a loved one is like a major operation; part of us is removed, and we have a scar for the rest of our lives. This doesn't mean that the pain continues at the same intensity. There is a short while, at first, when we hardly believe it. It is rather like when we have cut our hand, we see the blood flowing, but the pain has not yet set in. So when we are bereaved, there is a short while before the pain hits us. But when it does, it is massive in its effect. Grief is shattering.
Then the wound is healed, so to speak, the stitiches are taken out....
But...the scar is still there, and the scar tissue, too. As the years go by, we manage. But the pain is still there, not far below the surface. We see a face that looks familiar, hear a voice that has echoes, see a photograph in someone's album, and it is as though the knife were in the wound again.
But...not so painfully. And mixed with joy, too. Because remembering a happy time is not all sorrow, it brings back happiness with it.
"How long will the pain last?"
All the rest of your life.
But the thing to remember is that not only the pain will last, but the blessed memories as well. Tears are the proof of life! The more love, the more tears. If this be true, then how could we ever ask that the pain cease altogether? For then the memory of love would go with it. So the pain of grief is the price we pay for love.
I have recently lost my husband of 58 years in Dec of 2019. We married when I was 19 years old. He was older by about 15 years than me but we were madly in love and disregarding our occassional spats, remained deeply in love. The above wise and true message is a great comfort. I grieve for him daily but still go about my daily life. I make an effort, yes, a conscientious effort to comfort others in need and try not to carry my heart on my sleeve, regardless that I'm emotionally aching. Everyone in similar situations must not deny their grief but gradually need move forward with patience and meaningful and/or unmeaningful distractions. Our hearts are broken. We have to intentionally help ourselves because no one-else has the ability to enter our will and resolve. It's an effort, but an effort based on reality, wisdom and dignity. Thank you for this opportunity.
Here are some additional suggestions on how to help or support the grieving:
Know what to say to someone who’s grieving
While many of us worry about what to say to a grieving person, it’s actually more important to listen. Oftentimes, well-meaning people avoid talking about the death or change the subject when the deceased person is mentioned. But the bereaved need to feel that their loss is acknowledged, it’s not too terrible to talk about, and their loved one won’t be forgotten. By listening compassionately, you can take your cues from the grieving person.
How to talk—and listen—to someone who’s grieving
While you should never try to force someone to open up, it’s important to let your grieving friend or loved one know that you’re there to listen if they want to talk about their loss.
Talk candidly about the person who died and don’t steer away from the subject if the deceased’s name comes up. And when it seems appropriate, ask sensitive questions—without being nosy—that invite the grieving person to openly express their feelings. By simply asking, “Do you feel like talking?” you’re letting your loved one know that you’re available to listen. You can also: Acknowledge the situation. For example, you could say something as simple as: “I heard that your father died.” By using the word “died” you’ll show that you’re more open to talk about how the grieving person really feels.
Express your concern. For example: “I’m sorry to hear that this happened to you.” Let the bereaved talk about how their loved one died. People who are grieving may need to tell the story over and over again, sometimes in minute detail. Be patient. Repeating the story is a way of processing and accepting the death. With each retelling, the pain lessens. By listening patiently and compassionately, you’re helping your loved one heal.
Ask how your loved one feels. The emotions of grief can change rapidly so don’t assume you know how the bereaved person feels at any given time. If you’ve gone through a similar loss, share your own experience if you think it would help. Remember, though, that grief is an intensely individual experience. No two people experience it exactly the same way, so don’t claim to “know” what the person is feeling or compare your grief to theirs. Again, put the emphasis on listening instead, and ask your loved one to tell you how they’re feeling.
Accept your loved one’s feelings. Let the grieving person know that it’s okay to cry in front of you, to get angry, or to break down. Don’t try to reason with them over how they should or shouldn’t feel. Grief is a highly emotional experience, so the bereaved need to feel free to express their feelings—no matter how irrational—without fear of judgment, argument, or criticism.
Be genuine in your communication. Don’t try to minimize their loss, provide simplistic solutions, or offer unsolicited advice. It’s far better to just listen to your loved one or simply admit: “I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care.”
Be willing to sit in silence. Don’t press if the grieving person doesn’t feel like talking. Often, comfort for them comes from simply being in your company. If you can’t think of something to say, just offer eye contact, a squeeze of the hand, or a reassuring hug.
Things to avoid saying to someone who’s grieving “It’s part of God’s plan.” This phrase can make people angry and they often respond with, “What plan? Nobody told me about any plan.”
“Look at what you have to be thankful for.” They know they have things to be thankful for, but right now they are not important.
“He’s in a better place now.” The bereaved may or may not believe this. Keep your beliefs to yourself unless asked.
“This is behind you now; it’s time to get on with your life.” Sometimes the bereaved are resistant to getting on with it because they feel this means “forgetting” their loved one. Besides, moving on is much easier said than done. Grief has a mind of its own and works at its own pace.
Source: American Hospice Foundation
The key here is to remember that the goal is to add to the comfort and support of the one who is in the midst of the pain caused by their separation from their beloved and as caring supporters, we must not do anything that might add to their grief.
At times like these we all value the comfort received from a reliable, truthful source. Many grief counselors offer what they consider to be helpful suggestions to minimize the anguish we all feel at the loss of a loved one.
This is a position of great responsibility.
I have found the Bible to be the one and best source of accurate information that helps the living cope with grief and the true condition of a lost loved one.
Below are some suggestions that can help with the grieving process. Additional information can be found on the jw.org website.
COPING WITH GRIEF |
1: ACCEPT SUPPORT FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS
According to your needs, balance time spent with others and time spent alone
2: WATCH YOUR DIET, AND MAKE TIME FOR EXERCISE Eat healthful food, drink plenty of water, and exercise moderately.
3: GET PLENTY OF SLEEP Recognize that sleep is essential to dealing with the fatigue of grieving
4: BE FLEXIBLE Since everyone grieves differently, find what works for you
5: AVOID SELF-DESTRUCTIVE HABITS Avoid the misuse of alcohol or drugs—which creates more problems than it solves.
6: BALANCE YOUR TIME Alternate periods of grieving with time for socializing and recreation.
7: KEEP A ROUTINE Regain a sense of normalcy by keeping yourself occupied with a good routine.
8: AVOID MAKING BIG DECISIONS TOO SOON If possible, wait a year or more before making big decisions you may later regret.
9: REMEMBER YOUR LOVED ONE Collect pictures and mementos or write in a journal to keep alive your memory of the person who has died.
10: GET AWAY Make time for a change of pace—even if for just a day or part of a day.
11: HELP OTHERS Renew your sense of purpose by doing things for those who need help, including others affected by the loss of your loved one.
12: REEVALUATE YOUR PRIORITIES Use this opportunity to gain new insights into what truly matters and, as needed, make adjustments to your priorities
Realistically, nothing will completely erase the pain you feel. However, many who have lost a loved one can attest that taking positive steps, such as those listed above, helped them to find comfort. Of course, this is not a comprehensive list of every possible way to alleviate grief. But if you try some of these suggestions, you may find that they will bring you a welcome measure of relief.
Thank you Lydia. This is great. I hope this can be "pinned" to the top of the forum for ready reference at any time in the future.
I've found it heart breaking to have seen some posts here (often by first time posters) by someone in intense grieving pain due to a loss. I have felt like I had to say 'something', anything, just so they will know that their grief is recognized. I try to add some helpful direction to somewhere, but it seems so inadequate. I feel better when I have seen others add their responses as well. Your post will be very useful in the future.