This blog looks at the importance of grief and support. My previous blog looked at our natural tendency when we are grieving, to withdraw, to protect ourselves. While this is absolutely understandable, it can mean that we miss out on the support that we really need at this time. Accessing support may not always be straightforward and I consider what are some of the right and wrong things for those around us to say.
How to deal with what people say and do
Neither grieving nor helping those who are grieving is about saying the perfect thing. It’s about engaging, listening, understanding, providing comfort and support.
Many people experiencing a bereavement of loss find that people around them are not able to and don’t know how to offer them the support that they need. This can range from avoiding contacting the person altogether or pretending they haven’t seen them when out in the street, or approaching them and asking too many questions when a very short expression of sympathy or simply a smile and a warm greeting is what is needed. Even those close to us can avoid “difficult topics” which may include talking about the loss – when the bereaved person may really want and need to do this.
Be aware that people often struggle to find the right words to say when someone is grieving and though well-meaning, can say things that are insensitive and plain inappropriate. A once-off insensitive comment is perhaps allowable but repeated similar comments are not and you may have to step back from that person, at least for a period of time – or find a way of telling them what really would help you at this moment.
The right things to do or say
The right kinds of things to say (and a hug and just being with the person can be as good if not better than saying something) are:
I am so sorry for your loss. I wish I had the right words, just know I love you and I’m here for you. I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in any way I can. You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers. My favourite memory of your loved one is…I am always just a phone call away. What can I do – and call me anytime if you need anything at all.
Generally people need us to be supportive, but not trying to fix everything, to be able to talk about feelings, to admit there is nothing they can do to make you feel better and to recognise the huge extent of the loss which is not limited by time.
The wrong things to do or say
The wrong things to say are usually those terrible platitudes such as: At least he/she lived a long life, many people die young. He/she is in a better place. There is a reason for everything. I know how you feel. She did what she came here to do and it was her time to go. Be strong.
Other wrong actions are attempts to fix everything, to rationalise or try to explain loss, or worse, to minimise it, to put a timeline on it (“but that was over two years ago!”) and to be judgmental.
Need some advice and support?
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
Book a counselling session today!
See also: Finding Meaning in Grief