My Journey: How to Understand Those Coping with Loss and Grief

coping griefRemember when we celebrated his golden birthday?
Remember when he was the star quarterback in high school and we cheered him to victory?
Remember when he graduated from college and went on to be successful?
Remember when he fell in love and the day we witnessed their union of marriage?
Remember that tragic day we lost him?

Remembering special moments of a loved one’s life is just as difficult as recalling the events of the day they passed on. A couple years ago, a close family member passed away unexpectedly. He was young and died suddenly. The whole family was shocked by this news and it has and will continue to take each member of the family time to cope with the loss.
Coping with grief is different for everyone. Some keep the emotions to themselves; others openly express their feelings. Listening and understanding to those who are grieving are among the best things one can do for someone who is coping with the loss of a loved one. Identifying and understanding those who are dealing with loss can be tough to overcome. As outlined below, there are many ways to be supportive of a person grieving.
Compassion and Understanding

When someone dies, lives are changed forever. A piece is missing, but learning to live without that piece can be a long journey for some. Understanding and patience can go a long way.  Remember that there's no definitive way to experience grieving, and that everyone experiences a unique set of feelings or physical symptoms. Understand that the grieving person will always feel the loss, but that he or she will learn to live with it over time.

Listen

Listening to grieving people is the most important thing you can do. Listen in a non-judging way, and allow them to tell the story or stories over and over if they need to. Repetition is often a key part of the healing process. Allowing someone to get out their emotions helps those grieving continue to move forward and be at peace.

There is No Timeline for Grief

Each person recovers from grief at his or her own pace. Some can recover quickly, while others can take much longer. Lives are changed forever when someone is lost. Be careful not to impose a time limit or tell people to get over it and move on--feeling that they've grieved too long can cause people to suppress their feelings, and slow or stop the healing process. There should be no expectation of a timeline.

Understand that grieving people are very likely to have emotional setbacks, even after a long period of healing and outward "improvement." Something could spark a memory that causes them to spiral downwards--dates that were important in the loved one's life, such as birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, are often triggers for setbacks.

Being there for someone as long as they need is most important. Even if this means sitting with them and not talking at all, being in one’s company, in silence, can be very healing.

Celebration of a Life Lost

Share your memories of the loved one, too. Telling stories, making jokes and laughing with each other about the good times one had brought to the family can be very healing. It can be provide positive moments of reflection. It is important to listen to the stores and not try to compare any personal loss to theirs. Most grieving people feel like no one else could know what they're experiencing.

It's also important not to tell people that time heals all wounds, or that their loved one is in a better place. While that may be true (depending on your belief system-and theirs) they're not in a place to hear that at this point.

It may sound strange to talk about celebrating, but it can help grieving people heal. Help them celebrate the life of the loved one they've lost. Help them develop rituals they need to get through the difficult early stages of the grieving process.

Be Watchful

Those that are grieving can struggle greatly to understand why the loss has happened or how they will ever overcome the situation. If you notice signs of suicidal behavior or fear they may harm themselves or others, it's your moral, legal, and ethical duty to refer them to a mental health professional

In summary, personal experience with loss has taught me several things, but above all, it is most important to just be there- be there to listen, encourage, remember and provide hope for those who are dealing with the loss of someone close to them.