How can I help?
Journey of Hearts
A Healing Place
How can I help?
We all know people around us who are grieving. Sometime we will be
impacted also by the loss, other times the loss will be felt by the grieving
person alone. The grief process is unique and each person gets through
it in their own accord and at their own pace.
What is important is that people in the grief and loss phases, often
may not be thinking clearly, their grief so overwhelming that the may want
to do harm to themselves. That is why it is important to recognize the
signs and symptoms of depression, and also suicide warnings. The presence
of a friend, a family member, a clergy member or physician who takes the
time to notice and to help, may make all the difference between a prolonged
grief phase, or one that may have devastating consequences for the person
Some helpful suggestions in answer to the question "How can I help
someone who is grieving?"
Be in touch - whether on the
phone, with a card or a letter or stopping by to say "hi."
Let the person grieving
know that you are thinking about them.
Help with the routine matters.
It helps remove the burden of the day-to-day maintenance needs which can
contribute to stress in the grieving person.
See if there is anything
that you can do to help. It might be simply going to the store to get groceries,
helping fix meals, take care of the children, answer phones.
Answering the phone may
be particularly helpful if the person is dealing with a sudden loss, e.g.
accidental or unexpected death.
It's all right for the helper
to be silent.
Often the person grieving
just needs "to be," and may not be listening to what your are saying, but
your presence can be comfort enough.
A hug, a simple touch
on the shoulder or hand, a smile and nod, may be all the contact that is
needed, the ability to communicate much with few words.
It's all right for the grieving
person to be silent.
All the person grieving
to take the lead, they may just want someone around, so as to feel less
alone, but not able to engage in conversations.
Be genuine, be yourself. Be available
A simple "I'm Sorry" may
be better than trying to find elaborate words of condolence.
Share things that have worked
for you when you have been grieving.
If you have found poems,
quotes, phrases, cards helpful pass them along. There are certain sympathy
cards that I have found to be most soothing, so I have sent one or two
cards several times.
I will also share several
of the poems that I have placed on this website, namely Guardian Angel,
In Memory of You and, The Messenger.
What works with different
people is highly variable, but the thought will be appreciated.
Write a letter or brief note
with a sympathy card
Often a few genuine thought
of condolence or hopes may help more than the pre formed sympathy card.
I have kept many old cards
and letters and re-read them over the years. I found a card sent to me
during a time of struggle several years before when I was facing another
time of struggle. It had been sent to me by a girlfriend, who has since
died. Those words written many years ago, still helped me, as though she
was still with me.
Keep in touch
Be available. Don't thing
that the grieving process ends within the first week, or month. Depending
on the loss, the grieving can last for several years.
Family and close friends
may be available during the initial phases, but later on may be less available,
that's when the calls and visits will be most appreciated.
Remember to listen, Try to avoid
Idle chit-chat will probably
be more annoying than distracting for a grieving person.
Small talk can help, up
to a point, but it is a very fine line, take care not to cross it.
What the person needs
probably more than anything, is someone to listen, to listen to their stories,
their remembrances as they work through the transition phase.
Be able to deal with someone
crying, or someone's anger
This is often the what
I am able to give to grieving families, the ability to let someone break
down and cry, to "be there" with them in the tears. Tears are very healing.
Anger can be a difficult
emotion to deal with, but frequently gets evoked during a grieving process.
It is an emotion that is difficult for people to deal with, but one of
the stages of grief.
Share your own experiences if
appropriate, but try to avoid telling they "I know just what you are feeling,"
because odds are you don't know exactly how they are feeling.
What may be helpful is
to ask someone how or what they are feeling. A grieving person may be glad
to be able to express the anger that they are feeling at the person, the
Take your cues from the grieving
person, let them give you the details only if they want to share. Much
depends on the circumstances of the loss.
Some people may find reliving
the details too traumatic.
Others can find healing
in sharing the details.
Encourage postponing any major
decisions, if at all possible.
Remember that Anniversaries,
Birthdays and special holidays may be difficult for the person still grieving.
These times may trigger
the grief response anew. Understanding this helps in dealing with the process.
Allow the grief process to proceed.
There are many behaviors
that may seem morbid to the non-griever or rituals that are created to
remember the person lost, the relationship lost, the job lost.
Often these rituals help
a person incorporate the loss, move throughout the grief phase, incorporate
and finally be able to move on and let go.
Remember that pity is destructive,
not constructive. It undermines self-esteem, and self-respect.
Acknowledge that they
have experienced a loss, see if they want to share, and then move on.
Don't dwell on the past
Encourage the person grieving
their loss to reenter the "real world"
The activities may be
simple, like attending a play, getting a massage, going to the movie.
Helping a person through a grieving
process can be very rewarding. It may even save a life.
I have found one of the most rewarding experienced has been
that of helping patients, family and friends through the grieving process.
Helping someone through this process may require more time,
more caring and more energy than you had originally thought possible. It
often will require giving more of who you are as a person, the ability
to just be.
Last updated January 24, 1998
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