In this article, we have asked Michelle Topal, MSW, LCSW, the owner of Changing For Living Counsel, PLLC, to share tips with our readers about helping others through the grieving process. For more information visit her website at http://www.changeforlivingcounseling.org/
Loss and the grief that follows are universal human experiences. It is an unavoidable and painful part of all of our lives. Yet how we handle it can impact us for years to come and define us in new ways. While grief and loss can sometimes make us feel alone, it can also unify us and bring us closer to the people around us. If you or someone you know has experienced a significant loss, here are some ways to understand the healing process and find connection in loss.
- Understand that grief is a process with its own timetable. Be patient, gentle and kind, as there is no right time frame or way to experience grief.
- When the tasks and rituals connected to grieving are over and friends and family have gone, is often when people are no longer distracted and grieving begins. This is when people may need you the most.
- It is not possible to distract or avoid the feelings away, so do not feel it is your responsibility or even helpful to distract the grieving person or make them feel better.
- Telling someone things like “time heals all wounds”, may make you feel better, but is likely to make the grieving person feel a lack of understanding and rushed in their grieving process.
- Allow the person a safe space to share, cry, reminisce, or sit quietly. Sitting with someone in their feelings promotes healing and connection. This means you may need to be aware of your own discomfort in being able to sit with someone else’s pain.
- Ask and listen to what the person needs in terms of support, and wherever possible do what they need.
- Patiently invite and help someone who is grieving eventually reconnect with normal activities and functioning when the person is ready to gradually lift the cloud of grief. Gently help them not get stuck.
Understand that moving forward is painful to someone who is grieving, as it represents an acceptance of the loss. It takes time for someone to want to experience their life again without sharing it with who has been lost. It is often the biggest and most difficult step in the grieving process, because the person may feel like they are not honoring the loss by going on without the person. Allow room for this and it will happen with time, care, patience and connection.
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