How to Support a Loved One Through Grief

You never want to see someone you love and care for suffer through heartache and grief, but it can often be difficult to know what to say or how to help. That’s where our experts come in. We want to be your partner in seeing your friends and family through grief. 

Our team of psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and counselors led by Dr. Ronald Winfield at Great Lowell Psychiatric Associates are here to equip you with the education, tools, and strategies you need to be a supportive friend, spouse, and relative.

Understanding grief

Before learning how to get someone through grief, it’s best to understand the response itself. 

Grief is a normal reaction to loss. From losing a job to losing a loved one, the grieving process is the same: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 

There’s no normal amount of time to grieve and people will go through these stages at different rates depending on the person and the type of loss. For example, the grieving process might take longer for the sudden loss of a family member than the end of a romantic relationship. 

When your loved one is still in the grieving process months after the tragedy and there’s no evidence they’re feelings of grief are fading, they could be suffering from complicated grief disorder. 

You’ll notice emotional warning signs like increased irritability, bitterness, inability to express joy, and detachment. Some physical symptoms of complicated grief can include digestive problems, headaches, fatigue, sore muscles, and chest pain. 

If left untreated, complicated grief disorder can result in jobs and friendships lost and, in the worst cases, more serious mental health issues, like depression. 

Helping a loved one through grief

While there’s no guarantee that you can keep your loved one from experiencing complicated grief disorder, there are some things you can do to be supportive and make the grieving process as easy as possible. 

Talk openly

It can be tempting to completely avoid saying the name of the deceased person or naming the tragedy. Doing so can actually make the griever feel worse, as though the memory must be completely erased from all conversation. 

Avoid “How are you?”

The answer should be obivous — they’re not doing well. Opt for a “how are you feeling today?” instead of the standard greeting. 

Reach out and help out

It’s easy for a grieving person to slip into isolation, neglect relationships, and disregard basic responsibilities. That’s why it’s important that you call, text, or email often. Knock on the door and offer them some company if they’re up for it.

It’s also a good idea to help with those day-to-day duties that might not be getting done. Instead of asking if you can do anything, putting the pressure on the griever, be intentional about how you help. 

The easiest thing to do is to make meals. Widows and widowers may especially feel out of sorts when it comes to prepping a grocery list and making meals for one. If you have a particular strength or skill, now’s the time to put it to use. 

If you’re a lawyer, you can offer advice on estate planning; if you’re a mechanic, you might change the oil in their car; if you’ve got a knack for handywork, you could fix the leaky faucet. 

Talk less, listen more

Even if your loved one is telling the same story for the tenth time or rehashing the same feelings, right now, a sympathetic ear is crucial to their recovery. Avoid giving advice unless asked for it. 

Be wary of your own feelings

Being the support system can be a tough job and it can be easy to wish that your loved one would move on or start to show signs of recovery. While your heart might in the right place, it’s impossible to speed someone through the grieving process. 

Make sure you’re aware of your own thoughts and feelings before talking with the griever and be careful not to say things like, “it’s time to move on.” 

Recognize the warning signs

No matter how great of a friend, spouse, or relative you are, sometimes grief takes hold of your loved ones and won’t let go. If you’re noticing warning signs of complicated grief or worse, signs of serious depression or suicidal ideation, refer them to one of our experts. 

Our counselors and psychotherapists offer the medical expertise that will pick up where your friendship and compassion left off. 

If you’ve read this far, rest assured that you’re doing everything you can to help the ones you love. Your compassion and support alone are key to getting your loved ones to the other side of loss. 

If you’d like more information or are worried about someone in your life going through the grieving process, call today or schedule an appointment online for a consultation.

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