6 Ways to Help Someone Cope with Loss
One of the worst experiences in anyone’s life is losing a loved one, but sadly just about everyone will experience bereavement at some point in their life.
As a relative, partner, close friend or colleague, it’s natural and good to want to do whatever you can to help the bereaved cope with the difficult mourning period as well as they possibly can, and to offer support when and where possible. There are many things that can be done to help someone’s who’s struggling with loss, but it’s careful to know where to step and to tread lightly when offering help.
Here are a few useful tips.
Try to give them as much space as they need
Whether it involves forwarding a loved one an employee bereavement leave guide to help them get the time they need off work, or just knowing when not to snuggle up to them, one of the hardest things for many people who want to support their bereaved friends and loved ones is simply giving them space.
This can be a delicate balance to strike, because ignoring someone who’s suffering from loss is likely to make them feel all the worse. Nonetheless, you need to be able to read the situation and understand when it’s time to offer a shoulder to cry on, and when it’s time to back off and allow the person their own silent reflection and tears.
Particularly if you weren’t part of the relationship dynamic between the bereaved and the deceased — for example, if your partner has lost a grandparent that you never met but who they have fond childhood memories of — allowing them to reminisce with relatives, or by themselves, can at times be an important part of the healing process.
Keep an eye on them, though. Reach out whenever you feel it may be needed. Just don’t become personally offended if there are times when the offered shoulder accepted.
Let them know it’s not their fault
A lot of people feel immense guilt over the deaths of those close to them, and very often that sense of guilt rests on a very shaky — sometimes even completely nonexistent— basis.
It’s common for grown up children to feel that they should have done more to support their ailing parents, that they should have spent more time with them, that they shouldn’t have argued, or that they should have insisted that they move in with them.
It’s common for friends or siblings to feel that they should have been there to protect or talk sense into a loved one who died in tragic accidental circumstances.
Self-blame, regret, and guilt are all-too-common during times of bereavement. One of the best things you can do for the wellbeing of your loved ones is to let them know that what happened is not their fault, and to argue against the little voice which is playing in their mind and laying all the blame on them.
Point out that they always made a great effort to meet up with their late parent on holidays, or that they always made their friend or sibling laugh, and that they can’t hold themselves accountable for things like disease or accidents.
Offer a shoulder to cry on
Sometimes, simply being there to listen, and offering a shoulder to cry on, without judgments or deep philosophical monologues, can be the best way of helping.
When someone is dealing with a loss, oftentimes they just need the warmth and support of those close to them. They need to vent their emotions to someone without being judged or looked at strangely, and they need to feel like they’re communicating even if it’s a largely one-sided explanation.
Rather than trying to initiate and carry in depth conversations, try just making it clear that you’re there to listen and be supportive if and when they need it.
Remind them off the good times
Regret and sorrow are generally the most dominant emotions by far in the case of bereavement, but it can be tremendously helpful — though painful all the same — for the bereaved to be reminded of the good times they shared with their loved one.
This is often a thing best left to those who are very close to the bereaved to bring up, be it other relatives, or long term romantic partners.
By talking about the good times and sharing uplifting or funny anecdotes, the sorrow of the mourning period can be moved more towards a bittersweet celebration of the deceased’s life, with tears and laughter mingling together.
Be patient with them
It’s not unusual for people who are dealing with loss to become temperamental, moody, and even to lash out at those around them. While you shouldn’t accept abuse, it’s often important to remember that your loved one is going through a very difficult time and isn’t their normal self, and to afford them some extra understanding and leeway as a result.
If you find that they’re snapping a lot, you can bring their attention to it and ask them to stop, but you shouldn’t fly off the handle and begin a major argument over small transgressions, bad moods, or the like.
Being patient with a loved one during the mourning period is important, as they’ll often be acting out as a result of struggling to come to terms with their pain and grief.
Help with the logistics
There tend to be a lot of logistics that need to be dealt with following a death, ranging from organising the funeral and making all of the arrangements relating to that, sending out word to the various relatives and friends of the deceased, or even just arranging time off work and transport to attend the funeral.
It’s unfortunate that the burden of handling all of these logistics invariably falls on the shoulders of those who are also grief stricken and caught up in mourning.
As much as you possibly can, try to help with organising the logistics surrounding the death so that your loved one has more time and space to grieve in peace.