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How To Really Care For A Grieving Person

How To Really Care For A Grieving Person

“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.” – Saint Augustine

I lost both my parents within 3 days of each other and when they died my world came crashing down. I was in shock and so much pain that I could hardly breathe. I continued to feel the pain and grief for many months.

When caring for and supporting someone who is grieving, it is easy to feel helpless. There is no way we can take away the pain and the intensity of their grief and that can be overwhelming for us. I know that many people wanted to help me ease the pain of my grief and only now do I understand that supporting someone who have experienced loss can be difficult.

While there is no perfect way to care for and support someone who is grieving, these 6 guidelines will help you to care for a friend or partner in their time of need.

1. Prepare Yourself To Experience The Physical Pain Of The Persons Grief

Be open to experiencing and feeling that person’s grief. You will have emotions that will arise within you and they should not be held back. If you feel you need to cry, then cry. If the person goes to hug you and holds on to you sobbing don’t pull away, respond and hug them back for as long as it takes for them to release the hug.

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Always be genuine about how you feel and if you don’t know what to say acknowledge it by saying ” I am sorry this has happened to you. I am not sure what to say, but what I want you to know is that I care about you and I am here for you”.

2. Understand The Grieving Process

Experiencing the tragic loss of my parents I learnt that there was a lot more to grief than I had ever known. I did not know that there was a difference between grief and mourning. Grief are the internal thoughts and feelings we experience when someone we love dies. Mourning is taking the internal experience of grief and expressing it outside of ourselves.

Instead of being encouraged to express grief externally, we are told to;  “keep your chin up”, “take it day by day'”, “keep yourself busy” or “tomorrow is another day”. Many people as a result feel uncomfortable and so grieve in isolation which is not helpful for the healing process.

If you have not experienced grief and loss you can still support and care for a grieving friend or partner. Spend some time reading and learning about the grieving process. This information will give you a better insight as to how you can help and what help you can offer to a person as they mourn for the loss of their loved one

There is no right or wrong way to grieve however the better you understand grief and how it is healed the better you will know how to help.

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3.  Avoid These Statements

I know that people have good intentions and truly cared for me. They wanted to help me when I was grieving however some people did make some totally useless statements in their effort to show their support. These statements only intensified the pain of  my grief and made me feel even more isolated. I felt that it was me who was in the wrong and that I was grieving too much! So be aware of the statements you make in your effort to help someone who is grieving.

Here are few statements you should avoid at all costs:

  1. She or he is in a better place.
  2. You must be strong.
  3. He or she are at peace or they lived a good life.
  4. God must have wanted her or him because she or he was such a good person.
  5. Everything happens for a reason, life must go on.
  6. I know exactly how you feel.
  7. I guess it was his or her time to go.
  8. Its part of God’s plan.
  9. Look at what you have to be thankful for.
  10. This is behind you now – its time to get on with your life.

4. Listen with Compassion

Many people who grieve do not give themselves permission to mourn or receive permission from others to mourn. People tend to view grief as something that needs to be overcome rather than be experienced.

When grief is suppressed and internalised it creates confusion and internal anxiety within a person. Encourage and support your friend or partner to move toward their grief, rather than away from it and to mourn for the person they have lost.

Do not avoid talking about death or mentioning the deceased person. People who are grieving need to feel that their loss is acknowledged and that the person is not forgotten. Check in with your friend or partner to see if they are okay to talk about their loss by asking them, “Do you feel like talking?”

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Accept and acknowledge their feelings and that it is okay for them to get angry, cry or sit in silence. When you care and support a person who is grieving, be willing and comfortable to sit in silence.  Having someone who cares and loves them by their side is a key part of the healing process.

5. Offer Practical Support

It is difficult for a grieving person to ask for help. There are many reasons for this, such as having no energy or motivation to ask for help. For me it was because I felt guilty asking for help. I thought that I would be a burden as my friends led such busy lives that they had no time to spare.

If you want to help and support a friend or your partner who is grieving take the initiative and make specific suggestions. For example you could say “I am going to the market this morning. What can I get you?”; “Lets go for a coffee and walk. I will pick you up at…”; “I have made a casserole for your dinner and will drop it off this afternoon”.

6. Provide Ongoing Support

Grief continues for the person long after the funeral. Once my parents funerals were over and everybody had gone home that was when it hit me. Life was back to normal. Children back to school and me back to work. In one week my life had traumatically changed and yet life kept on going. It is at this point when the support and care of friends and family was most important.

If you want to support and care for your friend or partner, be prepared to be there for the long haul. Do not make assumptions about how your friend or partner appears to be on the outside. Avoid saying “you look well” or “you are doing great”. Inside they will be still feeling the pain so ask them “do you feel like talking?” or “what can I do for you?”.

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Take the initiative and be aware that this person’s life will never be the same. You never get over grief, instead you become reconciled to it. Over time you learn to move forward with your life without the physical presence of the person who has died.

With your ongoing support and care, your friend or partner will slowly start to feel more energy to moving forward in their life. They will start talking more positively about life and one day they will acknowledge to you that although their grief was a difficult and painful time, they understand that it is a necessary part of living.

That is when you know you have done an amazing job caring for and supporting someone you love who is grieving. They are now moving forward with their life.

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Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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