Knowing When To Offer Grief Support… And When To Allow Space

March 20, 2016 by Miller Funeral & Cremation Services Staff  


When someone close is hurting, we often wish we could intervene and somehow lessen the pain. Wanting to do whatever we can to support a grieving loved one through a personal loss is, understandably, a natural response.

Equally important in grief support, however, is knowing when to allow a bit of space for the mourner’s personal expression of grief, self-reflective solitude, and healing.


Meaningful Ways You Can Offer Grief Support

Although many of us want to reach out to someone who has experienced a loss with assistance that is genuine and welcomed, we may also experience some reluctance. We may worry that by calling or stopping by might stir up painful emotions or be a reminder of the loss.

These insecurities or fears can be assuaged through respectful offers of assistance and support.

Since we live in a problem-solving culture, we might want to move our loved one through the process of grief quickly. Or, perhaps the discomfort of witnessing someone we love in distress can prompt us to avoid being a support person altogether.

While these feelings are normal, there are many ways to can show your sympathy that preclude “fixing” or avoiding.

Here are some acts of support that are often welcomed by bereaved individuals:

  1. Being willing to listen – Being a supportive friend to someone who is grieving often means bearing witness to many intense emotions. Your loved one may be questioning life, beliefs, his or her ability to move on, and other weighty matters. Understanding this, being a supportive person will require you to be centered in your own emotional state and willing to listen without advice. And, listening is one of the most impactful and appreciated acts of love and concern you can provide.
  2. Offering practical assistance – If you are more comfortable with pragmatic actions than with emotions, another way to show support is through daily chores. Errands and tasks can pile up and seem overwhelming when someone is grieving. Some practical acts of assistance include: making a few meals that can be frozen and reheated, walking a dog, going to the grocery, cleaning the house, making food, and helping with yard work and gardening. You may also want to volunteer to be a social support buddy when your loved one needs to be among others or in the public.
  3. Understand that grieving is personal – Although you want to see your loved one back to his or her old self, realize that mourning and the stages of grief are highly personal. It may take months or years for someone to completely heal. Some of us want to be surrounded by people when in pain, while others may choose solitude. Remain open-minded, knowing your loved one will choose his or her own path.
  4. Ask what is needed – Whenever you are in doubt about the best way to help, don’t forget to ask. Sometimes you may be surprised about what your loved one truly needs and appreciates.


Knowing When To Back Off

It is common that during times of bereavement, the mourner can become inundated with offers to help and round-the-clock visitors. And, although it is important to periodically check in with your friend or family member, some space is needed for the healing that must take place.

To avoid such a situation, ask. You can also be instrumental in diverting the concerned crowds by delegating tasks or creating a calendar of errands. This way, those who wish to help can feel as though they are needed and yet the privacy of the bereaved is also respected.

If the time comes to step back, remember that this, too, is a part of the process and your friend or relative will look forward to spending time with you again, when the time is right.

For more information or resources on healing after the loss of a loved one, contact us or refer to our Grief Support Library.


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