If You Know Someone Who Is Grieving

If you know someone who is grieving, please be gentle with them. No matter the type of grief they are going through, it is still grief, and your role is not to judge them on how well they are handling it, whether they are having a harder/easier time than somebody else or whether they should be over it by now/doing something differently. You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but you are not experiencing their particular loss, so please do not share it with them. It is not likely to help. Please be kind to them. Be patient. Be supportive. You do not have to understand how they are behaving (there is no logic to be found in grief). Just accept it. Accept them. They are someone that you love and they are in immense pain. Remember this.

Have compassion. They may be happy and determined to get on with their life. They may lose themselves in manic activity. They may close themselves off from you. They may ignore your calls. They may become depressed and withdraw deep within themselves. They may cry all the time. They may become angry. They may be unreasonable. They may lash out. They may feel sorry for themselves. They may begin a journey of self discovery. They may look for meaning in unfamiliar places. They may cling to unreasonable hope. They may be uncomfortably cheerful and optimistic. They may lose their way completely. They may even do all of these things (and more). All of this is normal. These are normal responses when a world is turned upside down. These things can be expected when a person finds themselves in such terrain. The situation is unacceptable. And yet it must be accepted. Somehow. This causes great stress. And no two journeys are the same. Be patient.

 You may no longer recognise your loved one. They probably won’t recognise themselves either. They need to become an entirely new being. This takes courage and perseverance. Be supportive.  It is OK to feel uncomfortable around them, but acknowledge that the discomfort is yours. None of us has a guidebook on this journey. There is no right way to do it.  Please don’t feel pressured to do or say the right thing. Just be present. They don’t need you to solve their problems, make them feel better or give them advice. Just be available. Just listen. Let them rant. Let them cry. Let them laugh. Let them be however they are. It may be difficult at times, but imagine how it is from their side.  Let them know that there is nothing normal about this time of grief. It is entirely abnormal. That’s the point. They need to keep finding the limits of their endurance and then move beyond them. They can’t put themselves back together until they fall apart. There is no more appropriate time to lose the plot. In fact, it’s probably even neccessary. They can’t do it wrong. They can only do it their way. Be mindful of this. Keep their confidence, but don’t try to be their counsellor. This can strain your relationship. Encourage them to seek professional help. Be their friend. Be there to reconnect them to themselves, when they need you.

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