When someone close to you experiences a loss, it is likely to affect you too. Even if you want to help them through the grieving process, you may be unsure about what to do.

In fact, the situation may be more complicated than you think. Many experts believe that the popular theory about the five stages of grief is a myth. Truth be told, the experience is different for each individual.

The Secret to Supporting Someone Who Is Grieving

Skillful support can ease the burden on family and friends who have lost a loved one. Reflect upon the following suggestions so you will be prepared to be of support in a time of need.

Short Term Strategies

It is natural for the bereaved to feel overwhelmed at first. They will probably appreciate you for being there for them even if they are unable to respond effectively for a while.

Here are some strategies to help:

1. Reach out.

Maybe you are tempted to pull away in case you say something inappropriate. However, if you can deal with your discomfort, any effort you make will probably be comforting.

2. Keep it simple.

Sincerity matters more than being profound. Brief condolences or store-bought sympathy cards will be appreciated.

3. Divide responsibilities.

If you are especially close to the bereaved, you may be able to help with the necessary arrangements. That could range from contacting other loved ones to providing care for children and pets.

4. Offer assistance.

What if you did not know the departed well? Depending upon the situation, it might still be kind to bring food or offer to pick up the mail.

Longer Term Strategies

The grieving process generally continues long after the memorial service is over. Be patient as they work through their feelings.

Consider using these ideas as time goes on:

1. Remember milestones.

Special occasions like birthdays and holidays often stir up strong memories. An invitation to lunch or sending an email can let others know that you are thinking of them.

2. Listen closely.

Talking is an important part of healing. Give your time and attention to the bereaved, so they can tell their story.

3. Share memories.

Did you have your own happy or meaningful experiences with the deceased? You might contribute to the conversation by providing your own perspective.

4. Validate emotions.

Grieving often involves feelings that make us uncomfortable, such as anger and sadness. Let the bereaved know that you accept them as they are without making any judgements.

5. Address secondary losses.

On the practical side, your loved ones may also be dealing with legal and financial issues related to their loss. They might be grateful for someone to act as a sounding board or provide information about relevant resources.

6. Encourage self-care.

Someone who is grieving might forget to look after their own wellbeing. If you are concerned, talk with them about their daily routines or ask someone they trust to get involved.

7. Honor your needs.

Any death might trigger feelings about your own past experiences. As much as you care about your family and friends, you may need to step back if helping them is having an adverse effect on you.

8. Consider counseling.

Talking with a professional therapist or joining a support group has helped many families through the grieving process. Let your loved ones know that help is available if they seem open to the idea.

9. Adjust your expectations.

On the other hand, death is a natural part of life. Research suggests that most families reach some level of acceptance within about 6 months. Be patient with your loved ones and their unique needs.

Social support plays a major role in helping someone to move on after experiencing a major loss. Staying in touch with family and friends who are grieving can give them hope for the future and bring you closer together.

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