They Lost Someone. How Do We Help Them Grieve?
This morning, my fiancé called to say his grandma passed away. I knew her, and she was very dear to me, but I didn’t cry right away. His voice, however, was on the brink of breaking the entire time. He doesn’t like to cry in front of others, so he didn’t let himself cry during that call, either.
I, on the other hand, have no problem with it – it simply hadn’t hit me in that moment. Only hours later, when I started writing a poem in celebration of her life and in the hope she will find peace and meet grandpa in the afterlife, did it hit me. I started crying my heart out.
How do You Help Someone Who Is Grieving?
Everyone deals with loss differently. This is the first loss we’re facing together, since being engaged and living with one another at least. And as I’m waiting for him to return from work, I can’t help but wonder how to help someone who is grieving, but make sure not to suffocate them at the same time. Here’s what I managed to understand so far.
Give Them Space.
You may be the type to seek immediate physical comfort when grieving – I know I am. However, I’ve recently learned he isn’t. When his grandma had a stroke five days ago, I went to hug him, and he simply moved and said “I need to go for a walk.” But that’s okay. Helping someone through grief doesn’t necessarily mean having to single-handedly solve it for them. There is no solving it – just respecting their needs and putting them first. And if they deal with it by needing to be alone for a while, you can’t hold it against them or let yourself feel useless. They’ll come to you when they’re ready. I know he did – half an hour later, he invited me for a walk and managed to forget about what was happening for a while.
Give Them Time.
Maybe today he won’t be willing to talk much, or even look at me. Maybe it’ll take days or weeks before he’s back to his old self. But one huge thing pertaining to how to help someone dealing with loss is – don’t expect them to be okay at the same time you are, especially if they don’t show sadness as readily as you do. In my culture, many people still wear black as a sign of grief for 40 days after someone’s death, and I’m pretty sure that’s no accident. Those wounds will never heal, and it takes time for them to even start getting better.
Ask Them What They Need.
The surest way to help someone who Is grieving is to simply ask them how you can help. Tell them how sorry you are. If you knew the person, tell them how amazing that person was. However, if they don’t feel like talking about it yet, and they find it too painful, just ask what else you can do. I remember baking his favorite sweet a couple of years back when his grandpa died. There wasn’t much else I could do – only check in very occasionally (so I don’t suffocate him) and do something nice for him to remind him “Hey, I love you, and I’m here for you when you decide you’re ready to let me in.”
The bottom line is: if you’re trying to understand how to help someone who is grieving, the simplest answer is: you can’t, not really. You can just be blunt about it, ask them what they need, and be okay with being in the background for a while until they’re ready to open up.
If you or your loved one have recently lost someone – I’m so sorry, and I hope you find your way through grief together.