Everyone experiences grief in different ways and on a different timetable. But rest assured, that no two people are alike. Many times, you hear people say, “well if that was me who lost ________. I would __________.” Remember, what you would do and what is right to you, may not be right to that person who just experienced a loss, and that is normal and natural.

First, lets talk about the stages of grief…

  1. Denial- After the shock of receiving the news, denial often kicks in. He or she may deny that there was a loss, may continue to act as if nothing is wrong, and/or may feel “numb.” This often helps protect yourself from experiencing too much pain at one time.
  2. Anger- As reality starts to set in, you may see your friend or family member start to lash out at innocent people or you may see that any little thing may set them off …the waiter, the check-out person, self, or friends. This stage may cause irritability, frustration, and anxiety, leading to shame and embarrassment after the outburst.
  3. Depression- He or she at some point will feel overwhelmed and helpless. They will lack energy and begin to pull away or detach themselves from the things that they used to enjoy: friends, family, travel, work, ect. Hopelessness is an overwhelming feeling during this stage.
  4. Bargaining- They will try to bargain, beg, and take back the scenario any way that they can. Even though we know this is not possible, it is normal. At this time, they may start to tell their story to friends and family and even reach out for advice or a shoulder to cry on. They will try and change their current scenario with anything that they can think of. They will ask the “why” questions and struggle to find reasons as to how/why this happened.
  5. Acceptance- Even though he or she will accept the loss, they will never forget. Their life may be forever changed. However, during this stage, they may feel empowered and have a greater feeling of self worth and self esteem. He or she may feel more secure, and even have a new “plan” in place. Perhaps that plan involves taking a trip, visiting distant relatives, a new job, getting involved in a charity, ect.

As friends and family of someone who has experienced a loss, how do we help them get through what is it they are about to experience? We are often afraid to say or do the wrong thing. You may not know what kind of advice to give, and you don’t have to because advice is generally not what is helpful at this time. You need to be there. Let them cry and talk and get angry without judgment, because you understand that their behavior is normal.

Here are some tips to follow to help your loved one through the grieving process:

  • Acknowledge the situation- as hard as it may be because you can’t find the right words and let them know that you are there for them no matter what
  • Silence- sometimes silence is the best medicine. Be willing to sit with your friend and not talk or discuss anything at all. When grieving, you do not always want to talk and share
  • Make sure never to judge or tell them that it is time to move on. Do not offer unsolicited advice!
  • Remember that grief belongs to the person that is grieving, do not share your feelings at this time. This is a difficult one because we like our friends to know that they are not alone and if you got through it, they can too. However, save this for some time down the road
  • Be practical- do things without being asked because your friend will never ask. Take care of housework, walk the dog, pick up groceries, drive him/her to appointments, ect.
  • Write down the “hardest” dates that your loved one may experience more sadness than usual: holidays, birthday, anniversary, ect. and offer extra support on those days
  • Take on large tasks together- after a death, their is a huge influx of paperwork, insurance forms, ect which all are very difficult for the person that is grieving. Show up and give them a lending hand.
  • Be a gatekeeper- when their is a death, there will be tons of people at the door at all hours of the day. Even though they mean well, this may not be what your friend needs or wants. If not, be the “gatekeeper.” Your friend may want you to greet guests, thank them for coming, and tell them you will contact them at another time or she may want you to be the contact person: to update people with any news so she does not have to.

However, you do need to watch for warning signs. Even though bereavement can take some time, the person should slowly start to improve. Seek professional help if your loved one is abusing/using alcohol or drugs, experiencing hallucinations, neglects personal hygiene, continues to withdraw from others, cannot enjoy life, constantly feels hopeless, ect.

If your loved one talks about death, dying, and/or suicide, call 911. Consider it a life threatening emergency and medical professionals will be able to get them the help they need.

Blessings to all,