Many people will know of a friend or family member who has experienced the loss of a loved one. It’s often difficult to know what to do or say when you wish to support them through their intense grief. Sharon Heselton, a senior associate in the wills, trust and probate team at B P Collins and a bereavement volunteer, offers advice on how to provide the best possible support to those in need.
Be compassionate and calm
Your friend or loved one will experience a rollercoaster of emotions when grieving. Remaining calm and compassionate at all times, will help them through this very difficult phase. There are some people who might feel uncomfortable offering emotional support as it might not come naturally to them, so perhaps practical help could be provided. When someone is newly bereaved, they might not be able to cope with daily responsibilities, so offer to take the children to school, make some freezer ready meals or arrange to pick up their shopping. This will be of huge help if they are not yet ready to face the outside world.
Everybody’s grief is different. It is important not to judge how they display their emotions. You might feel they need to get a handle on their grief or perhaps you may think that they seem to be getting over their bereavement too quickly. However, it is not up to you to tell them how they should behave. Most of your support should involve listening to what they have to say.
Don’t try to fix their grief
You’re not going to be able to fix their grief, despite how much you want to make it better for them. Their grief will still be there in the years to come and probably for the rest of their life. Their road to coping and reintegrating into everyday life will be a very personal journey for the bereaved person and you cannot ‘cure’ them, no matter how much you want to. It’s their grief, not yours.
Unfortunately, some people may want to avoid those who are grieving. This isn’t necessarily coming from a malicious place, but rather they’re worried about saying the wrong thing or doubting if they can really help them. But after a funeral, when the hubbub has died down, this is when your friend may need you more than ever, otherwise, they could feel completely alone.
Try to understand what your friend is going through
There are many models on bereavement that illustrate the grieving process. Although this might sound a bit clinical, they are helpful in reflecting the emotions and journey that people may experience after a huge loss. Some models illustrate how the bereaved will move between periods where they try to process their grief and experience feelings of profound sadness and anger; and other times – where they’re getting on with life, such as arranging the funeral, looking after the children, getting back to work or even just buying groceries. As a friend, it’s important to be by their side as they pendulum between the two or experience both elements at the same time.
The guidance in this article shouldn’t be regarded as a substitute for the advice from a trained counsellor. If you or a loved one has been affected by a bereavement, Cruse Bereavement Care can help by calling 0808 808 1677..