16 Mar It’s okay not to be okay! Five practical ways to support someone facing a loss.

Trudy Jacobsen | Grief and loss

If you’re like many people, you’re okay letting the shoulder of your shirt get tear-soaked.

You’re a good person, and being that “rock” is honourable. You’re willing to love and care for those who are facing a loss, even without knowing exactly how.

Yet, when that same bereaved person stops sniffling and begins to speak, you may start to feel really uncertain about how to respond. Not knowing what to say or do can make people feel very uncomfortable.

It’s normal to feel uncertain, grief comes in all forms. So, you may wonder, how do you deal with another person’s pain? What’s your role in their grieving? How do you show your love beyond providing a shoulder to cry on?

Understand the Problem

Feeling uncomfortable with grief, you may be at a loss for what to say to someone dealing with a loss. So, you may say nothing at all. Until, suddenly, months have gone by and you now feel like a terrible friend rather than anything remotely honourable.

Or not knowing what to say, you may constantly fill each moment with distracting small talk. In addition to the meaningless chatter, you may also shy away from mentioning the deceased. After all, you don’t want to be the one to cause more pain.

Believing you’ve effectively “fixed” the bereaved person’s problems, the circle of avoidance and distraction continues. And your mission of being a good support system silently crumbles.

5 Practical Ways to Support Someone Who Is Facing a Loss

The thing to remember about grief is that it’s okay not to be okay. It really is! And you are an incredibly good friend for caring so deeply for your bereaved friend or family member.

So, here are five ways you can express your care in a way that your loved one truly feels it and benefits from it.

1. Normalise Grief

Although grief is uncomfortable and often doesn’t make complete sense, it’s a normal part of life. For that reason, it’s important to view it as such.

Normalising grief will help ease your anxious feelings about being a proper support system. Also, it will make your loved one a bit more comfortable with their own emotions as well.

2. Accept Your Response as Normal

As well as normalising grief itself, be sure to accept your response to it as normal. This is a difficult situation, full of complexities. Wanting to avoid those twists and turns is understandable.

One way to accept your response as normal is simply to be kind to yourself. Acknowledge your feelings of wanting to avoid the uncertainty of not knowing exactly the right thing to say.

You don’t have to pretend like you have all the answers. Who actually does? Be honest with your loved one, telling them you’re there for them even though you may stumble a bit.

3. Offer Encouragement

Coping with the loss of a loved one is a huge challenge. As you may know, there are days when a bereaved person feels as though their insides have taken a beating. Such things as upset stomachs, headaches, and insomnia can all be a normal part of grief.

Most importantly, listen to your loved one and validate their feelings. Encourage them to see that they can cope with these problems. Simply hearing that they’ll get through this can offer them a great deal of hope.

And, then, encourage yourself, too. A little positive self-talk goes a long way.

4. Ask Questions

No one expects you to be a mindreader. So, don’t try to be. Remember, grief can be difficult for others to see and understand. What you may think is normal behaviour, your loved one may view as grieving.

It’s important to ask them questions, such as:

  • How can I help you?
  • What do you need today?
  • How are you feeling?
  • Is there anything specific I can do for you? I would like to help. Perhaps I could…

Whether your loved one needs you to sit quietly with them to look through old photo albums, talk to an insurance agent, or handle some arrangements, be there. Listen to them and ask questions about how you can best support them.

5. Give Up on Timeframes

Grief works at its own pace. Giving up on any sort of timeframe is a good idea. Although there may be distinguishable phases as your loved one grieves, people tend to go back and forth.

To best support your loved one, just let them repeat a phase or feel that emotion again, or whatever they need.

One last tip—possibly the most overlooked—is simply look after yourself. Grieving and loving someone who is grieving is exhausting. Don’t forget that you need to conserve your energy and fill up the emotional tank while you’re being there for someone else.

If you’re supporting someone who is facing a loss, please reach out. I would really like to help.