When a family loses someone they love, they want to feel supported and nurtured in their grief. Unfortunately, this need often goes unfulfilled, leaving grieving individuals feeling lonely and isolated. In order to help them heal, it’s important for friends and family to understand how they can support each other. The four types of support are: emotional, practical, social and spiritual. Funerals, celebrations of life, rosaries and other communal events are a great place to start.
They provide a safe place to remember the deceased, where family and friends can come together in a shared experience of mourning. If a grieving friend or family member asks you to attend one of these gatherings, go. It will make a difference to them. Then, when they are ready to talk, listen carefully and with compassion. Keep in mind that every person experiences grief differently. You may find that they speak a lot, or not at all, or in a way that’s different than you. This is okay, and normal. You might also find that they’re more apt to talk about things you have in common with them, like work or family. However, you should avoid comparing your own losses to theirs. While you may be trying to empathize by saying something like, “I know how you’re feeling” or, “This must be hard for you too,” bringing up your own experiences can actually make them feel less understood.
When you talk to a loved one about their loss, try to focus on the positive aspects of their relationship and how they’re coping, rather than dwelling on the pain. You can say, “I’m so sorry about your grandma,” or, “They must have been a wonderful person.” It’s also helpful to be aware that grief can affect appetite, so don’t be offended if their food doesn’t get eaten. Finally, don’t give up too quickly. Sometimes people who have been bereaved for a long time can feel a sense of loneliness, as though no one is there to talk to them about their loss. It’s important to check in, but not too frequently.
For example, you might call them once a week to see how they’re doing or if there’s anything you can do for them. However, if they tell you they don’t want to talk right now, honor their wishes. Just be sure to check in again later. For example, if they’re able to talk about their loss, invite them over for dinner and offer to help with chores around the house. You could offer to do things like take out the trash, get groceries or run errands. These small gestures are more than enough to show you care.