How To Help
friends, and neighbors are supportive at the time of a death, during
the wake and funeral. Food, flowers, and their presence are among
the many thoughtful expressions. After the funeral, many grieving
people wonder what happened to their friends. They need their
support and caring even more when the reality begins to hit and the
long process of grief begins.
friends is essential, since immediate family members have their
hands full of grief and may find it difficult to give support to one
another, or may not live nearby. Your help and understanding can
make a difference in the healing of your friendís grief. Unresolved
grief can lead to physical or mental illness, suicide or premature
death. A grieving person needs friends who are willing to
LISTEN; cry with them, sit with them, reminisce, care, have
creative ideas for coping, be honest, help them feel loved and
needed, and believe that they will make it through their grief.
helping grieving people are as limitless as your imagination.
All that is
necessary is a squeeze of the hand or other expression of sympathy.
If you want to say something, say, "I'm sorry" or "I care."
Offer to help
with practical matters; i.e., running errands, fixing food, caring
for children. Say, "I'm going to the store. Do you need bread,
milk, etc.? I'll get them." It is not helpful to say "Call me if
there is anything I can do."
Don't be afraid
to cry openly if you were close to the deceased. The bereaved may
find themselves comforting you, but at the same time they understand
your tears and don't feel so alone in their grief.
It is not
necessary to ask how the death happened. Let the bereaved tell you
as much as they want when they are ready. A helpful question might
be, 'Would you like to talk? I'll listen."
Don't say "I know
just how you feel."
might ask "WHY?" It is often a cry of pain rather
that a question. It is not necessary to answer, but if you do, you
may reply, "I don't know why."
platitudes like "life is for the living" or "it is God's will."
Explanations rarely console. It's better to say nothing.
the bereaved may be angry. They may be angry at God, the person who
died, the clergy, doctors, rescue teams, other family members, etc.
Encourage them to acknowledge their anger and to find healthy ways
of handling it.
Be available to
LISTEN frequently. Mostly bereaved want to talk about
the person who has died. Encourage them to talk about the
deceased. Do not change the conversation or avoid mentioning the
Read about the
various phases of grief so you can understand and help the bereaved
should make no life-changing decisions at this time.
Expect that there
will be good and bad days.
the expression of feelings, i.e., writing, physical activities and
honoring alone time.
Don't say, "You will get over it in time." Mourning may take a long
time. The bereaved need you to stand by them for as long as
necessary. Encourage them to be patient with themselves, as there
is no timetable for grief.
feelings are expressed. Do not say "you shouldn't feel like that."
This attitude puts pressure on the bereaved to push down their
feelings. Encourage them to express their feelings - cry, hit a
pillow, scream, etc.
Be aware that a
bereaved person's self esteem may be very low.
feels guilty and is filled with "if only"ís it is not helpful to
say "Don't feel guilty." This only adds to their negative view of
themselves. They would handle it better if they could. One
response could be, "I don't think that you are guilty. You did the
best that you could at the time, but don't be pushed by your own
feelings of guilt. Talk about it until you can let it go."
often a part of grief. It is a scary feeling. To be able to talk
things over with an understanding friend or loved one is one factor
that may help prevent a person from becoming severely depressed.
attention to the children in the family. DO NOT tell
them not to cry or not to upset the adults.
Suggest that the
bereaved person keep a journal.
The bereaved may
appear to be getting worse. Be aware that this is often due to the
reality of the death hitting them.
Be aware of
physical reactions to the death (lack of appetite, sleeplessness,
headaches, inability to concentrate, stomach distress). These
affect the person's coping ability, energy, and recovery.
Be aware of the
use of drugs or alcohol. Medication should only be taken under the
supervision of a physician. Often these only delay the grief
pain of bereavement is so intense that thoughts of suicide occur.
Don't be shocked by this; instead, try to be a truly confiding
counseling if grief is getting out of hand.
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