By Jennifer McDougall
Grief is an incredibly personal experience. We all grieve differently, and no one else can tell us how to feel or what to do. But some things have helped me through the most challenging moments of my own grief journey, so I thought I’d share them here.
Know that all grief is personal.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when comforting someone grieving is that all grief is personal.
There’s no one right way to grieve, and there’s no specific amount of time it should take someone to recover from loss or trauma. People grieving differently doesn’t mean they’re “doing it wrong.” Everyone grieves at their own pace, and how each person experiences loss depends on a complex array of factors, including genetics, culture, upbringing, and environment—just to name a few.
Knowing this can help you avoid assumptions about how another person handles their grief. It will also keep you from putting too much pressure on yourself if your friend or family member seems like they’re not getting better soon enough for your liking—or if they seem too eager to move forward with life as usual immediately after an emotional crisis has occurred (which might be perfectly healthy).
Listen, don’t talk.
The first step in comforting a grieving person is to listen, not talk. When you’re with someone who has lost someone or something important to them, resist the urge to try to solve their problems or make them feel better. The best way to help is by simply listening without judgment and letting them know they are heard and understood.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t share your feelings or opinions—it just means that those topics should be approached carefully and respectfully so as not to make things worse for your loved one. Remember that everyone grieves differently; some people may want or need more space than others during this time. In general, though, listening without judgment is always the best course of action when trying to comfort someone who has experienced loss.
Say how much you love them.
When someone you love is grieving, what they need most from you is reassurance that you love them and that life will go on. Say so in whatever way works for both of you. If words aren’t your thing, send a card or flowers. If those don’t feel right either, cook them a meal—or just make sure there’s food in the house so they can make their own meals when they’re ready to eat again. Just let them know that no matter how long it takes for them to heal emotionally (and physically), your love isn’t dependent on their getting better quickly; it’s just there for them as long as they want it.
Be there for a laugh as well as a cry.
Your friend will need you both when they are sad and also when they are laughing. When someone is grieving, it’s easy to get caught up in their sadness. So naturally, you want to help them through it… but that can leave out that laughter is often one of the best ways to heal. This can be especially true for those who have recently lost a loved one; if that person was always there for you when you were having a bad day or feeling down, now it’s your turn!
You don’t have to try and force anything—there are no rules about what kind of humor works for everyone. But just being there with your friend as they laugh at something silly will mean so much more than trying (and failing) not to laugh yourself while watching something else on TV together.
Remind them of happy memories.
Remind them of their loved ones. Reminding someone grieving their loved ones and the fact that they are not alone can ease the pain they feel. Tell them about a memory with the person who passed away or remind them of an event your family will be having in honor of their loved one.
Remind them what they will do in the future. A lot of people find comfort in thinking about how life will go on after losing someone close to us and how we’ll continue living as if nothing happened. Helping a grieving person think about how life will continue after a member has passed away makes it easier for them to accept that things have changed forever. However, there’s still hope for those around them (and maybe even him- or herself).
Encourage them to share their feelings and emotions.
Expressing feelings and emotions can be a valuable part of the grieving process, especially for those who may not feel comfortable talking about how they’re feeling. It’s okay to cry, yell, laugh, or feel scared when you’re hurting rather than push these emotions away or try not to show them. However, expressing yourself fully during this time will help your loved ones heal faster and prevent them from bottling up their feelings until they explode later on down the road.
Be patient with what they are going through.
- Be patient with what they are going through.
- It’s not just about being sad; it’s also about the process of grieving and healing.
- Let them know that you understand the process is different for everyone but that you are there for them.
Hugs are a great way to show comfort and support. They can be accommodating if the person you’re comforting hasn’t been able to shower or brush their hair or if they don’t want to touch anyone else right now. If you’re unsure whether it’s a good time for a hug, ask them: “Do you think we could give each other a hug?”
Grief can be a delicate topic, but these things can help the most when someone is going through it.
Grief is a normal, natural reaction to loss. It’s how we process our feelings and thoughts about a loss, whether it’s the death of someone close to us or something else that causes us pain. Grief is not something you can “cure” or “fix.” It’s a process, not an end goal.
We don’t always know what to say when someone is grieving because grief can look different for each person, and there are no hard-and-fast rules about how long it takes to grieve. In fact, many people go through stages of grief multiple times before finally finding peace with their loss. However, there are certain things you should remember when trying to comfort someone who has experienced pain in their life:
Grief is a complicated process. If you’re someone’s friend, family member, or loved one grieving, it can be hard to know what to say or do when feeling sad. But these tips will help you be there for them in their time of need and show that you care about them deeply.