There is nothing more heartbreaking than watching someone you love and care about going through grief. Whether it is a significant breakup, divorce, death or something else it can be awkward to figure out exactly what to say or not to say. Generally speaking simply letting your person know you are there when and if they want or need is the most important thing you can do to show support. They will let you know what they need from you from there. With that said, there are a few dos and don’ts to follow in order to provide your loved one the best possible support and we are here to break them down.
Grief Support Guide
Do be present. A lot of people fear being a nuisance or saying the wrong thing, however, it is even worse for you to disappear in an attempt to avoid and uncomfortable situation. They need you and need to know you will have their back, even if it doesn’t happen until months down the road. Let them know you are always here to listen.
Avoid meaningless cliches. “It’s God’s plan.” “They are in a better place.” “Everything happens for a reason.” These common phrases actually have the opposite affect and can cause more distress. Not everyone believes in God or believes in God in the same way. Same with believing their loved one is in a better place. As for the last phrase? It can come across as dismissive and like you are suggesting your loved one to forget about whoever or whatever they are grieving. It’s tough not saying something, but sometimes silence and a hug is all that is required.
Brush up on the grieving process. There is a very strong psychologic component to grief and it is important that you understand the process (or sometimes lack thereof) before diving into offering support. There really isn’t a right or wrong way to grieve so make sure you are prepared to handle however your loved one may be going through their loss. It can be a very straight forward process or it can be all over the place with a lot of back and forth. There is no exact timetable for grief and it can be a few months or several years before your loved one is back to “normal”.
Watch for warning signs of depression. Despite your best efforts to be there and offer help, there are times that what you are capable of providing won’t be enough and that is ok. You most likely aren’t a therapist or psychologist and sometimes that is what it takes in order for someone to bounce back. If you notice your loved one having extra difficulty functioning in their daily life—basic hygiene is being neglected, extreme anger or a compete inability to find joy in things they once loved it may be time to seek professional help. Less subtle signs include an extreme focus on death, alcohol and drug abuse and talk of suicide.