In the last two articles we looked at how you might feel following the loss of a loved one, and then ways in which to help yourself cope better. In this third and final part of our Coping with Grief series, we will look at ways you can help others who are on their own journey to coping with grief.
Often someone who suffers the loss of a loved one receives an inundation of support just after they have died. They might receive cards, flowers and messages of love and nice thoughts. However, after the funeral has taken place, the support might become much less. Friends and family members will start to get on with their own lives again, often leaving those experiencing bereavement to feel lonely and perhaps even isolated.
Providing longer-term support to those who are grieving can make a real impact on their healing process. It can help them to grieve in a healthier way and keep them feeling stronger and encouraged to keep going.
Here are some ways in which you can support someone who has suffered a loss…
We have all offered this line before to friends who are feeling down “You know where I am. Let me know if you need anything“. However, most people, especially those who are in shock or feeling numb following a loss, might not feel like asking for help, even though they need it.
Instead, be proactive in your approach to supporting your friend. Get in touch with them regularly either via a phone-call or a face-to-face visit. Drop round a weekly home-cooked meal so ensure they are eating properly and suggest things they can do to keep their mind occupied and busy in between.
Share the responsibility
You might want to offer longer-term support to a friend but feel that your life is already too busy to dedicate so much time. Therefore, think about how you can share the responsibility with another good friend of the bereaved person.
Perhaps you have mutual friends and can arrange things between you to help. Or perhaps you can find the contact details of some of their neighbours or colleagues, who might love the chance to help out with dropping off shopping or popping over every few days for a coffee and a chat.
Don’t be afraid to talk
Many people who are grieving say that the worst thing another person can say to them is nothing. You might feel uncomfortable about mentioning the bereavement, however, chances are your friend will appreciate the permission to talk about things freely. You can be sensitive with the things you say, but don’t be too scared that you will upset them. There might be things that they want to get out in the open and even if they cry, then this is all part of the healing process.
Give your friend time and space to talk in their own way. Listen without interruption and let them know they have your full attention. Some people may not want to talk at all. However, sometimes just having someone nearby or in the same room can help to ease the loneliness.
Suggest an activity
There may be particular times that are more difficult for your friend. Weekends might be hard if they were used to spending time with the person they have lost. So, perhaps you could offer to go over for a takeaway or to watch a movie on the evening or go for a walk to get some fresh air during the day.
If your friend has hobbies, then encourage them to keep them up. Exercise and activities that require concentration are great for mental wellbeing. If they don’t have any hobbies at the moment, then encourage them to try something new. Perhaps a book club or a walking club that means they can connect with others while enjoying doing something they love.
Above all, just being yourself and being there for your friend will be enough. Tell them about your day and don’t be afraid to make them smile and laugh.
Hearing about other people’s lives can be comforting and distracting – no matter how mundane you think your day has been!
Look out to see if extra help is needed
You, above anyone else, will know if your friend is not coping well. Perhaps they are not eating, not sleeping and not managing to look after themselves well. If this is the case, then you could suggest that they check in with their GP.
Alternatively, visiting a bereavement counsellor or a talking therapist could offer them an outlet to explore any feelings or thoughts that are causing them distress. It’s important to remember that taking therapy doesn’t have to occur at first. It can be months or even years after a loss, and still be very beneficial.
If you know someone who might want someone to talk to about the loss of someone close, then feel free to pass on my contact details. I work with many people who have experienced grief and who are dealing with a number of different situations at the same time.
I offer an initial free consultation without obligation and can be contacted on 07787 831 275 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org