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Express your concern. Let the bereaved talk about how their loved one died. People who are grieving may need to tell the story over and over again, sometimes in minute detail. Be patient. Repeating the story is a way of processing and accepting the death. With each retelling, the pain lessens.
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Ask how your loved one feels. Remember, though, that grief is an intensely individual experience. Grief is a highly emotional experience, so the bereaved need to feel free to express their feelings—no matter how irrational—without fear of judgment, argument, or criticism. Be genuine in your communication. Be willing to sit in silence. Often, comfort for them comes from simply being in your company. Offer your support. Ask what you can do for the grieving person. Offer to help with a specific task, such as helping with funeral arrangements, or just be there to hang out with or as a shoulder to cry on.
Nobody told me about any plan. Keep your beliefs to yourself unless asked. Besides, moving on is much easier said than done. Grief has a mind of its own and works at its own pace.
It is difficult for many grieving people to ask for help. They might feel guilty about receiving so much attention, fear being a burden to others, or simply be too depressed to reach out. What can I bring you from there? When can I come by and bring you some?
Your loved one will continue grieving long after the funeral is over and the cards and flowers have stopped. The length of the grieving process varies from person to person, but often lasts much longer than most people expect. Your bereaved friend or family member may need your support for months or even years. Continue your support over the long haul. Stay in touch with the grieving person, periodically checking in, dropping by, or sending letters or cards.
Once the funeral is over and the other mourners are gone, and the initial shock of the loss has worn off, your support is more valuable than ever. The pain of bereavement may never fully heal. Be sensitive to the fact that life may never feel the same. The bereaved person may learn to accept the loss. The pain may lessen in intensity over time, but the sadness may never completely go away.
Offer extra support on special days. Certain times and days of the year will be particularly hard for your grieving friend or family member. Holidays, family milestones, birthdays, and anniversaries often reawaken grief. Be sensitive on these occasions. If a grieving friend or family member talks about suicide, seek help immediately. Even very young children feel the pain of bereavement, but they learn how to express their grief by watching the adults around them.
After a loss—particularly of a sibling or parent—children need support, stability, and honesty. They may also need extra reassurance that they will be cared for and kept safe. Answer any questions the child may have as truthfully as you can. Use very simple, honest, and concrete terms when explaining death to a child.
Children—especially young children—may blame themselves for what happened and the truth helps them see they are not at fault. Open communication will smooth the way for a child to express distressing feelings. Because children often express themselves through stories, games, and artwork, encourage this self-expression, and look for clues in those activities about how they are coping. Grief: How to Support the Bereaved — How to help in the first few days, how to listen with compassion.
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