As we continue to sharpen our Helping Skills as an Emotional Skilled Helper, I want to share with you 4 Practical Tips for walking with someone who has lost a loved one to death. These 4 tips will equip you with practical ideas to things that you already have a sense to do for those suffering with grief.
Helping a grieving person tip 1: Listen with compassion
Almost everyone worries about what to say to a grieving person. Knowing how to listen is much more important. Oftentimes, well-meaning people avoid talking about the death or mentioning the deceased person, but the bereaved need to feel that his or her loss is acknowledged, it’s not too terrible to talk about, and his or her loved one won’t be forgotten.
Talk candidly about the person who died and don’t steer away from the subject if the deceased’s name comes up. When it seems appropriate, ask sensitive questions– without being nosy– that invite the grieving person to openly express his or her feelings.
Helping a grieving person tip 2: Offer practical assistance.
It is difficult for many grieving people to ask for help. They might feel guilty about receiving so much attention, fear being a burden, or be too depressed to reach out. You can make it easier for them by making specific suggestions– such as, “I’m going to the market this afternoon.
This helps the grieving person look forward to your attentiveness without having to make the additional effort of asking again and again. You can also convey an open invitation by saying, “Let me know what I can do,” which may make a grieving person feel more comfortable about asking for help.
Be the one who takes the initiative.
There are many practical ways you can help a grieving person. You can offer to:
- Shop for groceries or run errands.
- Drop off a casserole or other type of food.
- Help with funeral arrangements.
- Stay in his or her home to take phone calls and receive guests.
- Help with insurance forms or bills.
- Take care of housework, such as cleaning or laundry.
- Watch his or her children or pick them up from school.
- Drive him or her wherever he or she needs to go.
- Look after his or her pets.
- Go with them to a support group meeting.
- Accompany them on a walk.
- Take them to lunch or a movie.
- Share an enjoyable activity (game, puzzle, art project).
Helping a grieving person tip 3: Provide ongoing support.
The length of the grieving process varies from person to person. Your bereaved friend or family member may need your support for months or even years.
Continue your support over the long haul. Stay in touch with the grieving person, periodically checking in, dropping by, or sending cards or letters. Your support is more valuable than ever once the funeral is over, the other mourners are gone, and the initial shock of the loss has worn off.
The bereaved person may look fine on the outside, while inside he or she is suffering. This puts pressure on the person to keep up appearances and to hide his or her true feelings.
The bereaved person may learn to accept the loss. The pain may lessen in intensity over time, but the sadness may never completely go away.
Certain times and days of the year will be particularly hard for your grieving friend or family member. Let the bereaved person know that you’re there for whatever he or she needs.
Helping a grieving person tip 4: Watch for warning signs.
It’s common for a grieving person to feel depressed, confused, disconnected from others, or like he or she is going crazy. If the bereaved person’s symptoms don’t gradually start to fade– or they get worse with time– this may be a sign that normal grief has evolved into a more serious problem, such as clinical depression.
Encourage the grieving person to seek professional help if you observe any of the following warning signs after the initial grieving period– especially if it’s been over two months since the death.
- Difficulty functioning in daily life.
- Extreme focus on the death.
- Excessive bitterness, anger, or guilt.
- Neglecting personal hygiene.
- Alcohol or drug abuse.
- Inability to enjoy life.
- Withdrawing from others.
- Constant feelings of hopelessness.
- Talking about dying or suicide.
It can be tricky to bring up your concerns to the bereaved person as you don’t want to perceived as invasive. Instead of telling the person what to do, try stating your own feelings:” I am troubled by the fact that you aren’t sleeping– perhaps you should look into getting help.
Almost everyone worries about what to say to a grieving person. When it seems appropriate, ask sensitive questions– without being nosy– that invite the grieving person to openly express his or her feelings. You can also convey an open invitation by saying, “Let me know what I can do,” which may make a grieving person feel more comfortable about asking for help. The length of the grieving process varies from person to person. Stay in touch with the grieving person, periodically checking in, dropping by, or sending cards or letters.
I hope this helps you to sharpen your Helping Skills to come along side with confidence and competence to minister to those who have lost a loved one. I truly believe that you have some instincts already inside you to be a Skilled Helper. Let these tools and ideas confirm what you already know, and potentially provide you some ideas and guidance for helping someone suffering with grief.
Until Next Time,