How to support those who grieve

Sometimes we don’t know what to do or say when we first find out that someone has experienced a loss. One of the worst things to do, however, is to not acknowledge the loss. As hard as it may be or how uncomfortable you may feel, simply tell your friend or loved one how sorry you are for their loss. You can do this in a card, on the phone, or in person but do it as soon as you are able to.
Educate yourself on the steps in the grieving process. These include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. They can happen in any order and for different lengths of time. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and each person grieves in their own unique way. As a friend or family member in a supportive role, remember that it is your job to simply be there for the person. It is not your job to hurry them through the grief stages or force them into acceptance.
Listen and be empathetic with your friend or loved one. Let them know that it’s okay to talk about the loss they’ve experienced. Ask questions if appropriate for the conversation. Use the person’s name that died. These small things help a person going through a loss to know that their loved one won’t be forgotten. Many times friends and family mistakenly believe that talking about the person that died will bring up bad memories. In most instances, the person lives the loss every day for a long time and actually feels better talking about it with supportive friends or family.
Offer much-needed assistance with day to day activities. It’s hard to put one foot in the front of the other when living through the shock of a loved one dying. Ask if you can bring a meal over or go to the grocery store. If you come over, offer to wash laundry or the dishes, or to take care of children or pets that may need attention. Clean up flower arrangements that may have died or need watering. These small things add up to a lot of help when a person is struggling to make it through each day.
Grief can last for years. Remember your friend or loved one and the person they’ve lost, months and even years after the funeral is over. Send them cards when anniversaries approach or particularly hard times of the year come and go. Such thoughtfulness will touch a person living through the loss of a loved one and provide the support they need to live with their loss.

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