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How to Support Someone Who Is Grieving

Updated: 4 days ago

Grieving is a deeply individual process, and there is no right or wrong way to experience it. What is universal, however, is the need for support and understanding from those around us. Grief is a natural response to loss, an emotional journey that everyone experiences differently. The pain of losing a loved one, whether a family member, friend, or even a pet, can be overwhelming and deeply personal. Understanding how to support someone who is grieving can make a significant difference in their healing process.

Understanding Grief

Grief manifests in various ways: emotionally, physically, and psychologically. It's not just about feeling sad; it can include a range of emotions like anger, guilt, and confusion. Often referred to as "the stages of grief, " which is an outdated model of grieving, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are just a few of the emotions experienced. They are not linear or time-specific (honestly, we will grieve the loss in some format forever) and vary widely from person to person. Everyone's grief is unique to them.

It's important to note that our understanding of grief has evolved beyond the traditional stage-based model. Newer models provide a more comprehensive view of how people cope with loss:

  1. Dual Process Model: This model, developed by Margaret Stroebe and Henk Schut, describes grief as oscillating between two main types of stressors: loss-oriented (dealing directly with the emotions of the loss) and restoration-oriented (managing the secondary consequences of loss, such as forming a new identity). People switch between confronting and avoiding these stressors, allowing them to process grief in a more dynamic way.

  2. Continuing Bonds: This approach suggests that maintaining a bond with the deceased can be healthy. Instead of "moving on" or "letting go," individuals find ways to integrate the memory and presence of their loved one into their ongoing life.

  3. Task-Based Models: William Worden proposed that grieving individuals undertake four tasks: accepting the reality of the loss, processing the pain of grief, adjusting to a world without the deceased, and finding an enduring connection with the deceased while embarking on a new life.

  4. Meaning Making: Dr. Darcy Harris's model focuses on the process of finding meaning after a loss. This approach suggests that individuals can find ways to reconstruct their sense of self and the world around them in the wake of their loss. It emphasizes personal growth and the development of new perspectives as part of the grieving process.

Understanding these models can help us better support those grieving by recognizing the complexity and individual nature of the grieving process.

Key Findings on Grief in Canada

The Canadian Grief Alliance (CGA) recently conducted the largest-ever survey on grief in Canada, with nearly 4,000 respondents sharing their experiences. The findings highlight a critical gap in how society supports those who are grieving:

  • 53% of respondents said their grief went largely unrecognized by others.

  • 50% felt inadequately supported in their grief.

  • 83% identified being asked about their loss as being helpful.

  • 54% wanted more access to one-on-one grief counselling.

  • 52% thought educating the public on how to better support each other would be helpful.

These results underscore the need for better societal support and understanding of grief. Your understanding and support can contribute to a more compassionate society where grief is recognized and individuals are not left to navigate their pain alone. Your actions, no matter how small, can make a significant difference in someone's grief journey.

How to Support Someone Who Is Grieving

  1. Acknowledge Their Loss: One of the most important things you can do is to acknowledge the person's loss. Avoiding the topic or pretending it didn't happen can make the grieving person feel even more isolated.

  2. Ask About Their Loss: According to the CGA survey, 83% of respondents found it helpful when others asked about their loss. This shows that talking about the deceased and sharing memories can provide comfort.

  3. Listen Actively: Be present and listen without trying to offer solutions. Sometimes, the best support is just being there and allowing the person to express their feelings.

  4. Offer Practical Help: Grief can make everyday tasks overwhelming. Offering to help with chores, cooking meals, or other daily activities can alleviate some of the burden.

  5. Respect Their Grieving Process: Everyone grieves differently, and it's important to respect how each person chooses to cope. Avoid giving unsolicited advice or telling them how they should feel.

  6. Encourage Professional Support: If the person is open to it, suggest seeking support from a grief counsellor or therapist. Professional help can be crucial in navigating complex emotions.

  7. Stay in Touch: Grief doesn't end after the funeral. Continue to check in on the person weeks and months after the loss. Consistent support can be very comforting.

  8. Educate Yourself: Understanding more about grief and the grieving process can help you be more empathetic and supportive. The CGA survey indicates that public education on supporting each other through grief is highly beneficial.

Supporting someone who is grieving is about showing empathy, being present, and recognizing their pain. By acknowledging their loss and offering ongoing support, we can help them navigate their grief journey. These strategies, backed by evidence based findings and, have proven to be effective in providing comfort and support. If you would like to learn more click the link to find more information and support (click here). If you found this information helpful, consider sharing it with others who may benefit or explore more resources on grief support on my website or within your community.

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