How to help someone who is grieving
GRIEF

How to help someone who is grieving

mel-mono
  • Mel Buttigieg
  • Writer, Bare
  • August 26, 2021
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Everybody grieves differently, so it can be difficult to know how to help someone who is grieving.

What makes the bereavement journey even more complicated is that talking about death and grief can make people feel uncomfortable. That’s why it can also be difficult for people who want to help someone who is grieving the death of a loved one. As a result, we may not want to be around a friend or family member who is grieving.

We may become so worried about saying the wrong thing or making things worse that we retreat and leave the person alone in their grief. And that isn’t always helpful.

As we are all unique, so too is our grief and how a person responds emotionally when someone they loved has died. Some people find talking about their grief can be an emotional relief, while others find peace channelling their grief internally. Or they might take comfort in speaking with the deceased person as if they were standing next to them. There are no right or wrong ways to grieve – only the way that feels right to the friend or family member you are helping.

Having supported thousands of Australian families through their grief, we have put together this article to share some insights about how to help someone who is grieving, or to help you cope with your own grief.

Help someone grieving by validating how they are feeling

Grief is an ongoing process. It can come and go at different moments after someone close to us dies. There are obvious triggers, like birthdays, death anniversaries, or at Christmas time when someone important is visibly missing. But grief can also appear almost out of nowhere.

It might surface if a special song comes on the radio, or if a scent of perfume or a particular food drifts along. Or if someone says or does something that reminds your friend or family member of their loved one.

Embracing those heartfelt memories of a loved one can be a wonderful consequence of grief, so it’s important to allow the bereft to ride the wave of emotion when those moments present themselves.

To get some more tips about how to help someone who is grieving, I asked Bare’s Customer Experience Manager and funeral arranger, Daphney Adams, for her insights.

As an integral member of the Bare team, Daphney provides support to dozens of people every week, who have called us in the hours or days after they have lost someone very special.

However the person is feeling is the right way for them. They may feel lost, confused, numb, sad, angry, guilt, in physical pain, or even relief. They could even be cracking jokes. If you are supporting someone through their grief, it’s important to understand that however they are feeling in that moment is validated.Bare's Daphney Adams offers advice on what to expect after a death.

Give them permission to be kind to themselves and take things one day at a time. If they ask you to leave so that they can process their grief on their own, try not to take it to heart.

“When grieving, people feel they need to put on a strong face for others and often they don’t grieve authentically because they are acting a certain way for others. I say to them, on your tough days just look after you and tell the world to leave you alone. And that’s OK!”

She also encourages those who have lost a loved one, to keep talking to them. So if you want to help someone who is grieving, it’s important not to discourage this.

“Chat to them as you always did. If you have decisions to make, talk to them. At times, even tell them off for leaving you! It may sound a little out there, but these people were an integral part of their lives and all of a sudden their physical presence is gone. 

“Telling people to keep talking to them helps them transition slowly, keep their loved one still in their lives and doesn’t force them to accept someone is gone and deal with that black hole straight away,” she said.

“It’s a completely normal thing to do and not something people should think is crazy. Whether they believe their loved one is there and can hear them or not is not important, it’s actually cathartic for the grieving person.”

How to help someone grieving a parent or grandparent

I was just 20 when my dad lost his battle with cancer. Being so young, I was deeply worried I would forget what he looked like.

I have kept Dad’s memory alive by sharing fond memories about him with my family and friends, and keeping photos of him nearby. I can still picture his happy and kind face as vividly as if I saw him just yesterday.

My advice to those wanting to support someone younger, who is grieving the death of a parent or grandparent, is simply to listen to their stories and encourage them to talk about their Dad, or Mum, or Nan. Just listening can mean so much.

Every time I talk about Dad to friends and family – even those who never met him – I etch a bigger piece of him in my heart and mind. I know that as long as I keep his memory alive, he can never be forgotten. And thinking he is here with me as I navigate life’s ups and downs as an adult is truly heartwarming.

Below are some brilliant pearls of wisdom shared on our Facebook page, from people on their own grief journey. We hope their insights help provide some comfort, guidance or validation through your grief.

 

If you want to help someone who is grieving, validate that however they are feeling in that moment is OK.
If you want to help someone who is grieving, validate that however they are feeling in that moment is OK.

 

Grief tips from our community

A former undertaker, Sheila’s piece of advice to help someone who is grieving was “Be kind to yourself.”

She would also tell people: “I know you don’t think so, but it will get better if you give yourself time to heal. Because at the moment your heart is wounded and it needs you to care for it.”

Below are some more brilliant words of advice on what you might say to someone who is grieving. These tips were shared on our Facebook page, from people on their own grief journey:

“Grieve. It’s healthy.” – Craig

“Take it one day at a time. It’s so difficult to keep going, but we have to.” – Tom

“Be gentle with yourself. Take all the time you need.” – Janis

“Grieve. Emotions feeling up and down for a while is normal. Maybe weeks or months.”  – Cheryl

“There is no time limit for grieving.” – Vic

“You have to grieve your loved one then you have to get on with life, for the sake of others close to you. But never forget the ones that mean something in your life that have passed.” – Paul

“Believe that your loved one is not dead, that they have just changed their address. They now live up in Heaven amongst God’s very best. Believe this with all your heart. It will help you understand. Life (on earth) is just a small part of the journey.” Peter

“Keep living!” – Ken

“Life goes on, like it or not.” Paul

“They are fine, and so are you. Now is new. As every second of passing is, renewal is constant. Natural cosmic forces do it all for you, so relax and rest easy!” – Colin

Final thoughts on supporting a friend through grief

You can read more tips in our article How to comfort a friend after a death, written by Bare’s grief and bereavement expert, Claire Hoffman. Our other article What to expect after the death of a loved one, provides some more excellent insights about the grief journey.

At Bare, we understand that we are meeting people at the most vulnerable time of their lives. Our team of compassionate funeral arrangers are here to guide you every step of the way.

To speak with one of our funeral arrangers, please give us a call on 1800 071 176, or head to the Bare Cremation website for more information.

 

 

Grief support services

Although everyone will grieve differently, one common thing is our need for human connection and good, healthy conversations about grief. You’re not alone. Our Grief Support webpage includes some excellent resources and videos about grief and bereavement, created by our bereavement expert Claire Hoffman.

There are also specialist bereavement services available, including the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement. Or for more immediate help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Our list of grief counselling and support services across Australia includes more contacts that might help.

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