How to help someone who has lost their loved ones?
By Wasim Kakroo
ONE of the most difficult tasks that many of us encounter is coping with the death of a close friend or family member. Losing a partner, sibling, or parent can cause us to grieve very deeply. Even though we recognize that loss is a part of life, we can still be overcome by shock and confusion, which can result in protracted feelings of intense sadness or depression. When a loved one passes away, the pain usually lessens in intensity with time, but grieving is a necessary process to help you get past these emotions.
Why is it difficult for us to help someone to grieve loss of their loved ones?
Most of us are socialized to assist others by resolving their issues, yet grief cannot be fixed. As a result, some people will either try to steer clear of the subject or try to soothe others by sharing their own experiences. Sadly, those responses are frequently ineffective. It can be challenging to know what to say or do when someone you care about is grieving following a loss. The person who is bereaved experience a wide range of powerful and agonizing emotions, such as depression, anger, guilt, and extreme sadness. As a result of the severe sorrow and challenging emotions, many times they also feel alone and alienated in their grieving.
What are the various ways of helping someone grieve such losses?
You could be worried about interfering, saying the wrong thing, or aggravating your loved one’s emotional issues during this trying time, or perhaps you feel helpless to improve the situation. It makes sense that way. But don’t let your discomfort stop you from offering support to a grieving person. Your loved one needs your help right now more than ever. You don’t have to know all the answers, be able to offer guidance, or say and act in all the proper ways. Being there is the most crucial thing you can do for someone who is grieving. Your love one will be able to deal with the pain and gradually start to recover with your encouragement and tender presence.
Here are some ideas for how you might assist someone who has experienced a loss:
1. Try to understand the process of grief:
You’ll be better able to support a grieving friend or relative if you have a better understanding of grief and how it is resolved. Grief does not necessarily unfold through logical, sequential stages. It can be an unpredictable emotional roller coaster with highs, lows, and disappointments. Try not to dictate to your loved one how they “should” be feeling or acting during their grieving process. Understand that extreme emotions and behaviors can accompany grief. Guilt, anger, despair, and terror are frequently experienced emotions during such times. A person in grief may shout to the sky, think endlessly about the deceased, strike out at family members, or cry unceasingly. Your close relative or friend needs affirmation that their feelings are normal. Your close relative or friend needs reassurance that their feelings are normal. Don’t criticize them or take their expressions of grief personally.
Grieving has no prescribed length of time. Many people need 18 to 24 months to heal following a loss; however different people’s periods of grieving may be longer or shorter. Don’t make your loved one feel like they’ve been in grieving for too long or put pressure on them to move on. The healing process may even be slowed by this.
2. Be aware of what to say and do to console a person in grief:
Even though many of us worry about what to say to someone who is grieving, listening to them is actually more crucial. When the name of the deceased person is spoken, many well-intentioned people choose to either avoid discussing the death or shift the subject. Or, realizing there is nothing they can do to help, they try to completely avoid the grieving individual. But those who have lost a loved one must feel that their sorrow is understood, that it isn’t too painful to discuss, and that their loss won’t be forgotten. They could want to cry on your shoulder one day, while they might prefer to vent, sit in silence, or reminisce on another. Being present and attentive to them can be a tremendous source of solace and healing.
While you shouldn’t try to coerce someone into talking about their feelings, it’s crucial to let your grieving friend or loved one know that you’re willing to listen if they want to. When the name of the deceased is mentioned, discuss them openly and don’t veer off topic. Additionally, when it appears appropriate, politely inquire as opposed to prying in order to open the grieving person’s mind and heart. Your loved one will know that you are willing to listen if you just ask them, “Do you feel like talking?”
Don’t presume you understand how the bereaved person is feeling at any given time because the emotions of grief might change quickly. If you believe it would be helpful, share your own experience if you’ve had a loss comparable to this one. But keep in mind that grieving is a very personal experience. Do not assert that you “know” how the person is feeling or contrast your loss with theirs because no two people experience grief in precisely the same way. Once more, emphasize listening and ask your loved one to share their feelings with you.
Let the grieving person know it’s alright to cry, become angry, or lose it in front of you. Do not attempt to convince them that they should or should not feel a certain way. The bereaved must feel free to express their emotions, no matter how unreasonable, without fear of judgment, dispute, or criticism because grieving is a very emotional experience.
If the grieving individual doesn’t feel like talking, don’t push it. They frequently find comfort in merely being in your presence. If you’re at a loss for words, just make eye contact, squeeze their hand, or give them a comforting hug.
Find out what the grieving person needs from you. Offer to assist with a particular duty, such as making funeral arrangements, or simply be there to hang out with or offer support.
3. Offer assistance that is practical:
Asking for assistance can be challenging for many grieving people. They can feel bad for getting so much attention, worry that they will be a burden to others, or just be too miserable to reach out. Make things simpler for them by offering concrete suggestions rather than stating, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” as a grieving person might not have the strength or desire to call you when they need anything. You could say, “This afternoon, I’m going to the market. What is there that I can bring you?
Try, if you can, to be constant in your offers of help. The grieving person won’t have to make the extra effort of asking repeatedly since they’ll know that you’ll be there for however long it takes and can look forward to your consideration.
4. Deliver continuous support:
Long after the funeral is over and friends and relatives have ceased calling on the family, your loved one will still be grieving. Each person’s grieving process is different in length, but it frequently takes far longer than most people anticipate. Your grieving friend or relative may want your assistance for months or perhaps years. Keep in touch with the mourning individual by dropping by, talking over phone or texting them sometimes.
For your grieving friend or relative, some occasions and days of the year will be especially difficult. Holidays, significant life events, birthdays, and anniversaries frequently bring up old pain. On these occasions, show compassion. Make sure the bereaved individual knows you’re there for them no matter what.
5. Watch out for depressive symptoms:
An individual who is grieving frequently experiences feelings of depression, confusion, social isolation, or as if they are going crazy. However, if the bereaved person’s symptoms don’t gradually start to go away—or if they worsen over time—this may indicate that natural grief and sorrow has turned into a more serious issue, like clinical depression.
If you notice any of the following warning indicators during the initial grieving period—especially if it’s been more than two months since the death—encourage the bereaved individual to seek professional help from a mental health professional such as a clinical psychologist and/or psychiatrist.
1. Functioning poorly in daily life.
2. Attention on the death is excessive.
3. Hatred, indignation, or guilt that is excessive.
4. Disregarding personal hygiene
5. Drug or alcohol misuse.
6. A lack of enjoyment of life
8. Withdrawing from other people.
9. Persistent hopelessness
10. Talking about death or suicide.
How can psychologists help in such cases?
Psychologists are trained to assist individuals in managing the fear, guilt, or anxiety that can be connected to the loss of a loved one. Consult a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional if you need assistance managing your sorrow or adjusting to a loss. Psychologists can assist individuals in increasing their resilience and creating coping mechanisms for their grief and sadness. To help people better their lives, practicing psychologists employ a number of evidence based psychotherapies.
- The author is a licensed clinical psychologist (alumni of Govt. Medical College Srinagar) and works as a consultant clinical psychologist at Centre for Mental Health Services (CMHS) at Rambagh Srinagar. He can be reached at 8825067196
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