The loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult experiences in life. The bereaved are often faced with intense and frightening emotions including depression, anger and guilt. They can often feel isolated. Appropriate assistance at this time can help them through the grieving process. The more you understand about the journey of grief and the process of recovery, the more prepared you will be to support a bereaved friend or family member.
There is no right or wrong for the experience of grief, everyone reacts differently. The grief may unfold in different and unpredictable ways, resulting in emotional turmoil that varies from person to person. Therefore, one should avoid telling the bereaved what they “should” be feeling or doing.
Grief may cause extreme emotions and behaviors. Feelings of guilt, anger, despair and fear are common. Someone who is grieving may yell, become obsessed with the death, lash out at their loved ones, or cry for hours on end. At this time, what they need is for others to reassure them that their feelings are normal.
Grieving may last for a short or an extended period of time. There is no set timeframe for recovery. Many may take 18 to 24 months; a few may take longer or shorter to heal. Attempts to force the bereaved to move on or make them feel like they’ve been grieving too long will only lengthen the healing process.
When the grieving person seems to be emotionally more stable or ready to talk, you may simply ask them, “Would you like to talk?”
As a listener, you should pay attention to the following:
Accept and acknowledge all feelings:
Let them feel free to express feelings without fear of judgment. Do not try to reason with them. Simply let them know that whether they feel angry or sad, you will still accept them.
Be willing to sit in silence with them:
When the grieving person does not feel like talking, simply keep silent. It is enough just to offer them eye contact, touch their hands or hug them.
Let the bereaved talk about their loved ones:
The bereaved may need to repeatedly express their feelings and tell the story of how their loved one died. Be patient and listen.< As the story is retold, the pain lessens.
Don’t try to minimize their loss:
Don’t compare someone’s grief to another’s’ or assume that you understand their feelings. These minimize their loss and should be avoided.
Offer practical assistance
Some bereaved may feel embarrassed, or may not have the energy or motivation to seek help. As someone close to them, you can try to offer concrete assistance such as:
Try to be consistent and continue your support. At the time of the funeral, the bereaved will receive a lot of attention from family and friends. But after the funeral is over, the initial attention may wear off. You can check in from time to time and see what practical help they may need.
But if the grief of the bereaved person lasts for more than two months , or are getting worse with time, with the symptoms listed below starting to develop, this may be a sign that they are experiencing clinical depression. One should encourage the grieving person to seek professional help as soon as possible.
To avoid appearing intrusive, try to start the conversation by talking about your feelings first, such as, “I see that you look tired. Are you having sleeping difficulty? I don’t feel good recently as well. Would you like to get help perhaps?”
If necessary, Forget Thee Not can help to refer a grief counselor to assist.