Grief is hard for everyone, and we’ve all been through it. However, everyone’s personal experience with pain is different.
We aren’t the same.
What we lost isn’t the same.
Reacting to it isn’t the same.
Nor are we reacting the same.
This is why you can’t tell me how to grieve. You can’t put a time stamp on how long the process should take. Your previous experience isn’t the same as what I’m going through.
You don’t understand my grief. But you can have compassion and empathy. You can be there for me!
You need to be there for those who are grieving. But you need to keep a few things in mind before doing so.
It is not about YOU
The first thing you need to understand is that nothing that would happen is personal. A grieving person may yell, cry or lash out. They’re hurt, scared, and confused. This has NOTHING to do with you! However, do not let the fear of saying or doing the wrong thing stop you from reaching out.
When in doubt, just say “I’m here for you” and listen. If you think you might be offended and start blaming the griefer for their action, then maybe it’s better to talk a step back and make things easier for them.
There is no silver lining.
“At least they’re in a better place”
“At least they’re not suffering anymore”
It is not helpful to begin your remarks with “at least”. You’re just trying to force them to look at the positive amongst their misery. Acknowledge that death is terrible enough and validate what they are feeling.
Yes, it’s great that they aren’t suffering anymore, or you might genuinely think they’re in a better place, but that doesn’t make the loss any easier for me.
Offer practical help and advice.
A grieving person might not ask for help when they need something. So instead of generally asking if they need anything, be specific. Griefers are already confused, don’t confuse them more.
You could drop off food, look after their pets, accompany them for a walk or drive them somewhere. You could say “I’m going to the supermarket today, what can I bring you with me?”
Do not tell someone how to feel.
Do not tell a grieving person to “Be Strong” or “I know how you feel”. This doesn’t help anyone.
Instead, you can say “I cannot imagine what you’re going through, but I am here for you whenever you need me”. Be willing to sit in silence. Sometimes eye contact, a squeeze of the hand or a hug is more reassuring than words.