Grief is difficult, not only for the person experiencing it but for everyone around them. Grief is uncomfortable, we don’t like to be close to it, and so it’s tempting to hide from it. Because grief is a reminder that we could lose someone as well; grief is a reminder that we could die, that we will die.
What can you say to someone who is grieving? How can you help them when they’re going through something so unthinkable?
You can’t fix this, but you can remind them that they’re not going through this alone, and here’s how.
It is so simple, and may sound so cliche, but it’s something that people need to hear.
We stress a lot about what to say to someone who is grieving, but the trick is to know that you can’t really say anything. Nothing you say will make it better, as the only thing that could make it better is to reverse death. They have lost someone important to them and nothing can cure that ache.
But you can tell them that you’re here for them. You can tell them that you’re not going anywhere. Knowing that they have your support can be a huge relief, and reminds them that they’re not alone in their pain.
If you say this, you need to mean it. You need to be there, not just at the start, but months later when everyone else forgets and goes back to normal life. You need to be here for them, through the good and the bad, particularly the bad. You need to be ready to shoulder their burden, are you?
No one can understand grief until they experience it for themselves, and there is no point toying around that truth. You do not know what they’re experiencing. I had no idea what it was like to lose someone until my father passed away. I didn’t realise that grief isn’t just sadness, it is anger, regret, confusion, denial and loneliness. I didn’t understand forever because I had never been forced to experience it until it was forever without him.
You don’t know what they’re going through and it’s okay to admit that. Because it shows that you respect their grief, and you know nothing you have compares. It shows that they’re entitled to their grief, however it manifests, and that you’ll take it as that.
Maybe you’ve lost someone as well, and you’ve been forced to experience grief head-on. This will help you to know how they feel and what they need. But also remember that everyone’s grief is different, and so you never really know how they experience it. My sisters and I all lost the same person, and yet we each went through that very differently and dealt with it in our own way. It took me longer to start grieving, and they recognised that.
It’s vital not to compare their loss to something else, as they need to know that their grief can be unique to their experience.
This is something I really needed to hear, as I didn’t think it was okay for me to break down. I felt like I had to keep smiling, keep going, keep functioning. Looking back, what I really needed was to stop and work through everything, but it didn’t feel like an option.
When someone is struggling, I always tell them that they don’t have to be okay. They can be broken or hurt for as long as they need. They don’t have to reply to me or make any efforts, they can focus on themselves.
You don’t have to be okay today, tomorrow or the day after that. You don’t have to be anything but what you are. Whatever you feel is right.
You can’t make things better, we established that, but what can you do? How can you help them? My sister once told me that what really helped after our father passed were the people who asked what they could do practically. They asked if they could arrange anything, cancel any plans for her, and inform people if she needed.
Ask them what you can do to help and make sure they know that they can ask for anything. Maybe it is help with their pet, maybe it is to be there so they’re not alone, whatever it is. See what you can do to ease their burden even a tiny bit.
I want to talk about my father. I want to keep him alive in my mind and conversations, but bringing him up can be so difficult. Whenever the topic comes up, people change the subject in an attempt not to upset me. But I want to talk about him, I don’t want him to be some kind of shameful secret.
Help someone to keep the person alive by giving them the space to discuss them. Tell them that they can talk about them anytime, you’re always here to listen. Make it easier for them.
Like I said, there aren’t any magic words that are going to fix this. But there are certain things to say to someone who is grieving that can ease it a little bit, even for a moment. These short phrases help to position you as their anchor during this difficult time.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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