Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult experiences we endure in life. While we realize this inevitability as we mature, it’s something most of us avoid thinking about due to its complex and painful nature. However, there comes a time when we all face the passing of a loved one.
Death hits hard for those who are left behind. Knowing how to offer support to a grieving family member is of utmost importance. By banding together through the hard times, you strengthen your bond while remembering your lost loved one.
There is no right or wrong way to experience grief. It comes in many forms because people are so diverse.
The relationship with the deceased is a significant factor affecting how we grieve. Generally, the closer we are to our departed loved one, the more difficult the grieving process is. Parents never want to imagine losing their children. Incidentally, it’s also hard for a child to imagine losing a parent, even after entering adulthood.
Most folks have likely heard about the five stages of grief. Created by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, these stages are:
While these stages are not necessarily all-encompassing due to the complex nature of grief, they provide a road map for what we can expect after someone passes away. A person does not necessarily have to experience their feelings of loss in this exact order. The stages can happen out of order and do not have a set time limit—if certain stages occur at all.
When you keep in mind the basics of grief, you must reserve judgment when you offer support to your grieving family member. For instance, if the loss deeply affects both of you, they might experience anger while you’re feeling depressed. Both of your feelings are equally valid, even when you are on different pages. By reserving judgment, you will have an easier time trying to empathize with your loved one.
Grief can conjure up feelings of isolation. If you judge your family member’s way of grieving, you risk the chance of isolating them further and harming your relationship. While you can give someone space, reassuring them that they are not alone is still essential. You’re navigating these rough waters together.
Accepting the loss of your loved one is a challenge we all must face. Knowing where to begin is difficult, but you can start by honoring them in meaningful ways when putting them to rest.
There are different types of memorial gifts for a funeral to consider when saying goodbye. While funeral programs and prayer cards are well-known, DVD photo montages are another option. This gift lets you look back on treasured memories with meaningful musical accompaniments. You and your grieving family member can pick out what keepsakes acknowledge your loved one best.
While this does not take away the pain of loss, these gifts can help you both remember the deceased. It’s a stepping stone toward acceptance. However, please remember that the road to acceptance is long and winding. We should be kind to ourselves and go at our own pace.
Communication is the foundation of maintaining healthy dynamics with all the different people in your life. This principle also applies to your grieving loved one. Let them know how you’re willing to be there for them, and keep the communication channels open. Death is not an easy topic to discuss, but please do your best not to avoid the subject, especially when they want to talk to you about the loved one you’ve lost.
Stay present and be ready to listen actively. Be sure to check on what emotions they are experiencing and refrain from giving too much advice. As we said, remember to do your best not to judge your family member’s feelings. They may swing from anger to depression to other emotions, so be there through the shouting, the tears, and anything else they experience.
Conversely, take care not to force your grieving person to talk about who they have lost if they don’t feel like sharing at that moment. Respecting boundaries plays into good communication. You can still offer your support in other ways, such as sitting with them, offering hugs, or being the shoulder they can cry on when words aren’t the best option.
Most of us have heard that “actions speak louder than words,” and there are many ways to show you care. Let your grieving family member know how you’re willing to help them with whatever they need. When we’re depressed, everything can feel overwhelming, even the smaller tasks that normally wouldn’t bother us. Helping in tangible ways speaks volumes to your loved one.
Here are a few ways you can show you care:
There may come a time when your help isn’t enough to get your grieving family member through this difficult time. While grief doesn’t follow a specific timeline, it can potentially transform into clinical depression. An example of this could be your loved one struggling to function in everyday life several months after the loss. There is nothing wrong with kindly suggesting they seek professional help and expressing your concern.
Grief counseling by an experienced therapist can help a grieving person navigate the rough waters of losing a family member. Support groups are also available for those who have experienced loss. Do your best to provide mental health resources you feel might benefit them.
Continue to comfort your family member over time. Unfortunately, tough periods will emerge in the coming months and years. Significant dates like birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays can create feelings of profound sadness. However, being supportive on these days also gives you the chance to talk about fond memories of the deceased.
Grief doesn’t follow a specific formula. Try your best not to judge your grieving family member. Show you’re there by listening and helping in any way possible during the hard times. Your compassion will contribute greatly to the healing process and fortify your bond.