Extending support during times of griefAcknowledging a grieving individual’s feelings and reassuring their emotions while actively listening can make them feel a lot better.
Losing a loved one is undoubtedly a difficult and sensitive topic that inevitably comes with intense emotions and profound sorrow. Grief is a universal response to loss, and each individual’s journey through grief is unique where the individual might require time, self-compassion, and support from others. It’s important to understand that there is no predetermined time frame for grieving, and it may take months or even years.
Losing someone entails more than their absence; it involves being unable to spend time with them, not seeing or hearing them, losing the shared daily habits and many more. Their physical presence becomes a void in our lives. While cherished memories remain deeply ingrained in our hearts, the absence of their physical presence can take a significant toll on our mental well-being.
We can do many things to address our mental health when we go through grief. Then again, what do we do when someone else is going through it?
Yes, the conversation of grief is always tricky, especially because it is associated with loss, but looking at it from a different perspective, grief and loss are things each individual has to go through in their lifetime. It is inevitable. But the thing is, even though it’s difficult, we want to be there for our loved ones. Supporting someone grieving can be tricky, but simply being there for them can make a significant difference in their healing process. As social creatures, humans turn to others for support in times of joy and sorrow. Having people around during this difficult time sends a powerful message that they are not alone, and the cherished memories of their loved ones will live on in everyone’s hearts forever.
Grief can be a difficult time for everyone. And one of the simplest things can be to just offer a supportive presence and attentive listening by allowing them to freely express their emotions and share their memories without any judgment or interruption. Often we fail to address the importance of just letting someone speak and express whatever they may be feeling verbally or nonverbally. But we have to understand that their feelings are valid, and they can express their emotions in the way that feels right to them. Whether they choose to cry, confide in someone, or take their time, it's their decision.
Grief can also evoke a wide range of emotions involving sadness, rage, guilt, confusion, and despair, and in such times, it may not seem significant, but it is essential to validate what the person is experiencing. Acknowledging their feelings and reassuring their emotions while actively listening can make them feel a lot better. We must understand that their need to repeatedly talk about their loved one might be a part of their healing process.
Think back to when you lost something or someone. What did you feel like doing? Did you talk about your loved ones, or was it something different? At that particular moment, we may have expressed our grief differently, one thing that might have helped us a lot is the acknowledgement and validation of our feelings and what we were going through. And what is important at these times is that we should avoid telling them how they should or shouldn’t feel. We have to respect every individual’s grieving process and let them express themselves freely, and avoid imposing our expectations on them.
We have to offer our patience and understanding as they navigate through their grieving journey. Grieving can be an unpredictable, gradual process. Some individuals may find solace and heal more rapidly, embracing the reality of loss with relative ease. In contrast, others may need additional time and support to navigate the complexities of their grief. We have to understand that their emotions can fluctuate, and they might have their good and bad days. And at these times, we must respect their individual needs and coping methods, allowing them to express grief in their way.
During difficult times, people often resort to using phrases like “Stay strong”, “It’s part of life”, or “Don’t cry”. Although well-intentioned, these statements can come across as trite. In such times, it is okay for us not to know what to say to the grieving individual or family, but it can be best to avoid any well-intentioned phrases like “Time heals all wounds” or “They’re in a better place”. Instead, offer genuine empathy and support without trying to minimise or fix their pain. Sometimes, simply saying, “I’m here for you” or “I’m so sorry for your loss” can provide comfort.
In a culturally rich society like ours, farewell rituals and poojas are common and come with many responsibilities. During grief, everyday tasks may become challenging for the grieving individual. We may often feel that the support we provide them ends after the funeral, but small acts of kindness often play a big role in life. So, it’s always an excellent choice to offer help such as preparing meals, running errands, helping with household chores or even just checking up on them and providing that space for them to talk can alleviate some of their burdens during this difficult time.
Often grieving individuals may neglect their self-care while focusing on their loss. And this is when we can be there to support and encourage them to take care of themselves physically, emotionally, and mentally. Just reminding them to drink water or eat, going on a walk together with them, or doing the things they love can do wonders.
Although we may have good intentions, we always have to be mindful of their triggers because we never know when and how certain situations, places, or events may trigger intense emotions in the grieving person. So, we have to be mindful of these triggers and offer support if we need to avoid or navigate through them.
Additionally, if signs of prolonged or complicated grief—such as persistent depression, extreme isolation, or difficulty carrying out daily activities—can be seen, we may also need to encourage the person to seek professional help.
Extending support to those experiencing grief is a compassionate and vital act. If we can be there for our loved ones during their hard times, then why not make that choice?
Moktan is a psychosocial counsellor who works at Happy Minds, a mental health and well-being platform.