Providing Support to a Grieving Loved One
Experiencing loss is one of the unfortunate inevitabilities of life. However, that doesn’t make processing the loss of a loved one any easier, and each person will mourn the loss of a loved one in their own way. The personal experience of loss makes it difficult to know how to support those who are grieving.
While each person should be allowed to express their sadness in their own way, there are some general practices that can guide those trying to support their loved ones in a helpful way no matter how they process their grief. While the trauma of grief may feel isolating, it is still essential to offer support and be available as an individual begins their long journey of processing their loss.
Providing support to a grieving loved one is complicated and involves finding active ways to assist the individual and observing how the individual is conducting themselves. Depression, anxiety, and lethargy are all common through this time. Trauma can also open the gates for individuals to turn to alcohol or drugs to numb their grief or try to feel “normal” through this difficult process.
Substance use is a dangerous coping mechanism for escaping pain. Using drugs or alcohol helps an individual avoid processing their trauma rather than allowing an individual to move through it. Doing so can develop into a dangerous habit or addiction as the person in grief continuously avoids confronting their emotions. While engaging a grieving friend or loved one may be extraordinarily complex, being aware of the coping strategies they are using and ensuring they are safe and healthy is essential.
Be Ready to Sit in Silence
Simply making one’s presence known to the grieving person in grief can be very comforting. While some mourning individuals may want to reminisce through memories of the person who passed, it is a very emotionally taxing thing to do. It is essential to be ready for difficult and emotional conversations, but not to expect that the grieving individual is prepared to have them. Being attentive to the stories is just as important as being willing to sit in silence as they simply process their thoughts with a supportive physical presence alongside them.
It is important to participate in whatever kind of communication the grieving individual is employing. For some, this will be silence. Others may start telling a story, only to cut themselves off as their emotions swell. It is important not to force any conversation but instead meet the person where they are and communicate with them in a way they see fit.
Make Clear and Specific Offers of Assistance
While offering assistance by letting a grieving loved one know that one is “there if you need anything” is a well-meaning gesture, it can leave those in grief at a loss when they need support. Those in distress will have many thoughts and emotions racing through their head and may not want to make decisions. It can be more helpful to make specific offers of how an individual is ready to help. Instead of waiting for those in grief to express their needs, specific offers of support could include offering to cook dinner, taking care of grocery shopping or errands, helping around the house or offering to help with funeral arrangements. Those who enjoy gardening can offer to use their skills to help with floral arrangements, and others can help take care of the logistical difficulties of a funeral service. Even offering to make phone calls into one’s work can prove to be an incredible asset. These kinds of direct offers can provide structure to a grieving individual, while also relieving the pressure of figuring out what each person can do, saving additional stress.
Manage Expectations and Timelines
Grief can take a very long time to process, and the loss of a loved one can fundamentally alter one’s life. It is important not to expect a person to just “get over it” in a specific timeframe. Just because an individual seems to be coping better one day doesn’t mean that they won’t return to feeling the emotional weight of their loss at a later time. It can be challenging to know what may cause a person to feel the sadness of their grief once again. As a result, managing expectations when it comes to recovery from grief is incredibly important. If an individual feels like they are being rushed to overcome their sadness, they may become angry or resentful.
Grief takes a lot of time, and supporting a loved one through it doesn’t limit itself to any timeframe. Birthdays or holidays without a loved one can be tough to process and may cause a swell of grief to return even months or years after the loved one was lost. It is a long and difficult process, and supporting a loved one through it means accepting that things won’t be the same.
Providing support to a grieving loved one is a complicated process. The trauma of loss can affect each person in unique ways, and learning to provide meaningful support is difficult. However, effective supports can provide needed structure and encourage healthy coping strategies to avoid potentially destructive habits from developing, such as turning to drugs or alcohol. At Brighton Recovery Center, we understand the difficulty of this trauma and work closely with each individual to find a unique and healthy way to cope with loss while providing education and direction to overcome unhealthy coping strategies. If you or a loved one is struggling with grief and needs guidance and an emotional outlet to learn to process their feelings, we can help you discover your own best practices by providing an array of therapeutic options. Meditation, yoga, art therapy, music therapy and various movement-based therapy and sport are available at our on-campus recreation center. Our caring professionals will support you in finding your best coping strategies. For more information on how we can create a recovery plan for you that avoids turning to drugs or alcohol, call us today at (844) 479-7035.