How to Support Someone in Grief

December 19, 2017

close up of crying teenage girl and friend hand

Here are some steps you can take on your journey to learning to comfort and support others and yourself:

Make it a written goal to acquire the skills of nurturing and comforting people. Many of us have never been nurtured or comforted. We don’t know how to do it; we’re uncertain what it means, what it looks and feels like. I had no idea of how to be gentle with myself. It took me a long time to learn.

When you’re talking to someone who’s going through loss, pay attention to yourself and how you respond. What do you think? What do you say? Do you blame? Feel uncomfortable? Feel pity and want to change the person or control his or her process? Who are you trying to comfort: the other person or yourself?

What helps you when you’re in pain? How do you like to be treated? Write about that in your journal, then follow the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. See how that works, then tell us about it.

How do you treat yourself when you’re in pain? Do you criticize yourself, resist your emotions, or try to deny them? There’s an art to sinking into whatever we feel and letting ourselves be who and where we are emotionally. When we go with our emotional flow and stop resisting reality, it doesn’t take all the pain away, but it’s for certain that resistance makes the pain worse.

Do you have a friend or loved one who’s going through loss now that you’re avoiding because you’re uncomfortable and don’t know what to say or do? Consider letting yourself use this as an opportunity to learn to be a comforting, nurturing friend.

Loss isn’t contagious.

Some losses may seem trivial when compared to losing a spouse, child, or being told we’re about to die. But the concept of being listened to and heard is the same, no matter how big or small the loss. We don’t compare pain.  If we hurt from a loss, we hurt.  It’s not about who hurts worse; it’s about caring for and supporting each other so we can come through our loss in one piece, transformed.

Many people don’t know what to say when someone is going through grief. It’s easy to get into our heads and blame, intellectualize, or preach. But when we do that, we’re not comforting the other person. We’re making ourselves comfortable. We can learn to support people experiencing loss, but it takes commitment, understanding, education, and practice — and the willingness to feel uncomfortable at times.  Helping others in grief will help us understand what we need when we go through Life’s losses.  It will also turn us into a good friend.

We become a valuable, empathetic, friend whether we’ve gone through the same loss as someone else, or not. In this section, you’ll find some ideas about what to do and say, and what not to do and say.  You’ll find more information inside the site, although we’ve put a lot out here.   As a concerned person, you’re also welcome to attend any workshops or chats we hold, as long as group conscience approves.

Learning to comfort and nurture other people teaches us how to comfort and nurture ourselves, valuable skills to acquire.  Nurturing and comforting people in pain isn’t easy.  It can trigger our vulnerability.  We realize clearly that if it can happen to someone else, it can happen to us.  It’s easier for people to blame others for their losses, hold them at fault, than to understand that going through loss isn’t a sign that we’ve done something wrong or that God doesn’t love us.  It’s part of the way Life and this Universe work.

Are you willing to come “up close and personal” with loss? Are you willing to feel uncomfortable?  Are you ready to see how vulnerable each of us really is?  When we learn to walk that fine line between not worrying about impending doom and understanding that impermanence is a universal law, we’ll be one step closer to enlightenment and as close as we can come to altruistic love.

Join us.  Learn to nurture yourself.

From the desk of Melody Beattie
Originally posted 2010

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