How to Support a Friend or Family Member When a Loved One Dies
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t know what to say or do when a friend or family member’s loved one dies. You care and want to show you care. Yet, it can be difficult to know the best ways to support someone who is grieving. You may feel lost, helpless, and unsure of what to do. Maybe you’re afraid to even reach out at all. Your heart is in the right place. Read on to gain tips from a complicated grief therapist your friend or a family member.
Being There Through Grief
Complicated grief is uncomfortable to sit with for so many reasons. However, you being there for someone who is grieving is more important than you may realize. Just by being present and listening to them, you are already providing a great deal of support.
Unfortunately, because grief does feel so uncomfortable it’s not uncommon for people to be at a loss and avoid someone who is grieving. So, just by you taking the time to read this blog post you’re showing that you’re willing to put in the effort to be supportive during this time. And please know, it’s ok to say, “I don’t know what to say that can help. I know nothing I say will bring the person back or heal your pain. But know that I want to be here for you however I can.” Just saying that goes a really long way.
Tips From A Grief Counselor in Erlanger, KY on What You Can Do To Help a Friend or Family Member Who Is Grieving:
Simply Listen to their Grief
Listening can be more helpful than you may think. When someone experiences complicated grief, they often just need to talk about their loved one and their feelings. It’s important to listen to them without judgment and to let them express what they’re feeling. They may want to talk about their loved one and reminiscence about good times. Just let them talk and be there for them.
You, at times, may not know what to say. That’s okay. Just let them know you are there for them and that you care. Remember, it’s about being present for them, not saying the perfect thing.
Validate Their Feelings…All of their Feelings
Making sure your friend or loved one knows that their feelings are valid is important. They may feel guilty, ashamed, or like they are overreacting. Sometimes, they may even feel something they don’t understand like relief or peace. It’s important to let them know that their feelings are normal. Honestly, there is a wide range of what’s “normal” to feel and it’s really common for people to feel a lot of things at the same time when they experience a loss. It’s important for you, as a support person, to know that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. You can tell them that it’s okay to feel angry, sad, scared, or even mad.
You can also remind them that it’s okay to cry. Crying is a natural way to release emotions and can actually be helpful. These feelings are valid and a part of the grieving process. This is another important reminder, grief is a process.
Be Patient with Your Grieving Loved One or Friend
Being patient with your grieving loved one or friend is important. Their grieving process may be different from yours. They may need more time to adjust to the loss than you did or vice versa. It’s important not to compare your grieving to theirs. This can cause them to feel like they are not grieving correctly or that they should be over it by now. Everyone grieves differently and at their own pace.
Offer A Helping Hand
Offering to help with cooking, cleaning, or errands can be helpful. This gives your loved one or friend more time to grieve and process their feelings. It can also take some of the stress of their everyday life off of their shoulders while they are going through this difficult time.
You can also offer to watch their children or pets. This can be a big help and allow them some much-needed time to themselves. This way they can have time to grieve in peace and take care of themselves.f
Share a Memory
If the person that they lost is someone you knew, consider sharing a memory that you have of that person, particularly a positive memory. Some people hesitate to talk about the person who has died, afraid they’ll make the grief worse. And truthfully, the person may cry when you share a story. But they’ll likely appreciate it. Because it shows you care and see their loss.
And keep sharing those memories with key people who have lost a loved one. When someone loses a spouse or a parent loses a child they often say that it feels sad when people stop talking about the loved one who died. So, don’t be afraid to bring their name up or to say a few words about them even months or years after the loss. Again, it might temporarily make someone feel a bit sad. But it may also really help to remember the positives.
What if you didn’t know the person? Maybe ask the person who is grieving to instead share a favorite memory with you to help you get to know that person a little bit better. Again, back to the idea of just listening to their grief. But really being present in that listening and actively asking about their memories.
Remind Them to Take Care of Themselves
Now, this may seem like common sense, but it’s important to remind your grieving loved one or friend to take care of themselves. This includes eating healthy, taking time to exercise, and getting enough sleep. When we are grieving, it’s easy to let self-care fall by the wayside. However, it’s not helpful for us in the long run or for our mental health when we do this.
You can gently remind them of the importance of taking care of themselves and offer to help in any way you can. Maybe by going with them to the gym or doing a home workout. Or, cooking them a healthy meal. Whatever you can do to help, it’s important to remind them that they need to take care of themselves during this time.
Remember to Take Care of Yourself Too
I’m sure you have heard the phrase you cannot pour from an empty cup. This applies here as well. You will not be able to help your loved one or friend if you are not taking care of yourself. Make sure you are also eating healthy, exercising, and making sure to sleep enough.
It’s also important to make sure you are taking breaks when you need them and spending time with your support system. This can be with other friends and family or even a therapist. You need to make sure you are taking care of yourself so that you can be there for your loved one or friend.
Encourage Them to Seek Complicated Grief Therapy if Needed
Sometimes the grieving process is too much to handle on our own. Complicated grief therapy is available if this is the case for your loved one or friend. Seeking a complicated grief therapist that specializes in grief can be very helpful. They can help your loved one or friend work through their feelings and start to heal. Plus, the complicated grief therapist will know how to help them if they are having a difficult time.
Your Grief is Important Too
This rule doesn’t just have to apply to your friend or loved one. If you are struggling to support them or the loss is affecting you as well, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Complicated grief therapy can be a great resource for both you and your grieving loved one or friend.
These are just a few ideas of how you can support a friend or family member when a loved one dies. It’s important to be patient, offer help, and take care of yourself during this difficult time. If you, your friend, or your loved one need to seek professional help to work through the grief, don’t hesitate to do so.
Begin Grief Counseling in Cincinnati, OH
Grieving is difficult and supporting a friend or family member through their grief can be just as hard. As a grief counselor serving Kentucky and Ohio, I’ve supported individuals to work through the process of grief and come out on the other side. If you or a loved one are working through grief-related thoughts, behaviors, or feelings that are distressing, or you feel stuck in your loss, please contact me to get started with counseling sessions available online in Kentucky and Ohio. Follow the steps below to get started.
- Use the contact form to get connected.
- Start sessions with a compassionate online grief counselor.
- Honor your loved one while still moving forward
Other Counseling Services at Kyle Linnemann Counseling
Grief comes with a lot of intense emotions. You may also be struggling with anxiety, depression, or even anger. This is why I provide a few different services at my Erlanger, KY-based therapy practice. Currently, my practice provides online therapy sessions and Humana therapy coverage to residents of Kentucky and Ohio. For more information about my practice, check out the blog, read the FAQs, and learn more about me. Reconnect with your joy today. Reach out to start your journey and put your best foot forward.