At some point in our lives, grief catches up to all of us. Even so, it can be difficult to know the right thing to say or the right thing to do when we are not in the midst of grief ourselves. If a dear friend or loved one is grieving and you feel at a loss or confused about how exactly to help, there are some significant ways you can lend your support. Several experts weigh in on the best ways to do it.
1. Remember It’s About Listening, Not Talking
It is all-too-common to avoid getting in touch with someone who is grieving because we don’t know what to say. The truth of the matter is that the best thing to say or–the best things to say–do not really exist. For most in the throes of grief, listening is significantly more important. Let your friend or loved one know you are there for them and will continue to be there for them, and then let them come to you.
If it’s what they want, let them share the story about how their loved one died. Ask them how they feel. Ask them how they are doing day-to-day. Don’t pressure grieving loved ones. Let them share as much or as little as they like.
Remember, there are a lot of underappreciated ways to be there for someone. Let them cry. Give them a hug. Tell them the truth, even if the truth is, “I love you, but I’m not sure what to say.”
2. Offer Practical Help
Death is a fact of life, and sometimes an overwhelming one. Every year, 2.5 million Americans pass away, and the average person leaves five people grieving in his or her wake. At times, one of the best ways to curb this influx of grief can be to offer practical help.
Some ideas include baking a lasagna or casserole (something easily frozen, easy to reheat, and able to feed several people or one person for several meals), offer to pick up groceries, ask if it’s okay if you help out around the house, go on a walk with your grieving loved one or friend, and/or simply keep them company.
One of the best things you can do is remind your loved one that you are there–and do it often. A mentor, an emotional healer, a grief counselor, and a coach all have one thing in common: it is important for them to check-in and track progress. While grief takes many forms and any timeline is acceptable, check-in regularly with two aims–first, to let your loved one know you are there, and, second, to make sure they are not growing markedly or worryingly worse.
4. Encourage Them To Get Support
Whether your loved one’s condition grows worse or you simply think a professional or a group of like-minded souls would help him or her, broach this topic carefully and compassionately. Ask what they think about the idea. If they warm up to it, ask them if they would like help finding a support group or an appropriate helping professional. Offer to attend support group meetings with them. If you have any firsthand experience with counseling or support groups, consider sharing your experiences so they will know what to expect.
Grief is a complicated process. Loved ones and grief counselors have their work cut out for them, perhaps even more so than others like body confidence coaches. Remember, progress and self-improvement (like interest in new activities or body confidence coaches!) will come over time. In the meantime, encourage loved ones to take things one day at a time and make it clear that you are there and you will continue to be there–in whatever small and tangible ways that you can be–during their grief process.