by O’Della Wilson

Grief and loss are never easy to overcome and most people just don’t know what to do to assist others in their grief. Often times, we simply state “I know this is a difficult time for you right now, but you will get over it” or we say, “Time heals all wounds.”

We have all suffered some type of grief and loss, yet trying to help someone during these same trials can leave our good sense behind, and our words feeling empty to the very person we are trying to help. When that grief and loss is due to death, it is by far the most difficult to overcome and usually requires a longer period of healing.

There are many different processes of emotions a person goes through when grieving. Not everyone will go through all the same processes, nor even in the same order. Trying to remember this can be a challenge in and of itself, let alone trying to maintain any semblance of what is deemed reasonable or to be expected.

The truth of that matter is while we attempt to help others with our advice, more often than not, we actually add stress and guilty feelings on the very person we desire to console. This occurs despite our good intentions because we trap ourselves within our own emotions and forget the very things that truly helped (or hindered) us deal with our own grief. We instinctively and automatically become uncomfortable when faced with someone who is grieving a loss. Guilt rushes to the foreground, then both parties are overcome with emotion and left feeling depleted.

Grieving any type of loss will invoke an array of emotions. Emotions that can change very quickly or seem to hang in the air forever. Initially, a loss will invoke emotions of disbelief or even shock. The griever might gravitate towards emotions of anger or anguish. Pain of their loss might even immobilize a person for a period.

Depending on the individual beliefs, life experiences, religion, and the type of loss they are grieving can affect the grieving process of each stage. But basically, there are five stages of grieving a person goes through.

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining or Making Deals
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Not all people will experience every stage, and in fact, some might experience one stage or another more than once. Emotions become a scary roller coaster ride during times of grief. Some rides will last longer than others, and some might take us for several spins.
Regardless of what type grief and/or loss someone faces, there are some basic things you can do to alleviate their pain, with both parties feeling better about the situation and themselves. And remember, whether you yourself are going through this grief/loss or you are trying to console someone else, the following pointers will make the process of healing less painful, less confusing, and actually can improve your own coping skills in the future:

  • Never tell someone how long it ‘usually’ takes or ‘when’ they will start feeling better. This actually prolongs the healing process and can cause more harm then good by making the person feel that they are not normal.
  • Never tell someone they should try to stop thinking about the loss. This in effect tells the person you don’t wish to hear, know or even care about their loss.
  • Ask them to tell you about some of their good memories and engage them.
  • Tell them your good memories, when appropriate or asked. Many times I have heard responses like, “There’s just so many I don’t know where to start” or else “You know how s/he was, I don’t need to tell you.”
  • Always allow the grief stricken person to lead the conversation and truly listen to the words.
  • Most of the time when a person asks “is this normal?” it is not a question, but a need for confirmation and validation of what they feel. This should never be addressed with ‘tips’ or ‘examples’ of what you think is normal. Instead, your answer should be a question of what do THEY think.
  • Be available when you are needed, not when it is convenient for you.
  • Allow a person space when needed, but at the same time offer other means to keep them busy and focused on maintaining balance in their daily lives.
  • Allow the griever to vent their emotions without judgment or making it personal against you. While you should not feel obligated to actions of an abusive nature, anger is a natural feeling during times of grief that is better released than bottled up inside.
  • Sometimes all that is required of you is listening or simply being present, so they know they are not alone.
  • Offer to locate and/or accompany the griever to support groups.

As with anything else in life, there is a fine line between dealing with grief and becoming consumed by grief. And while there might be times the actions of the grief stricken may seem irrational or down right crazy, unless they display signs of self destruction or a need to harm others, the most you can do is support them and avail them to healthier means of coping.
There are signs to watch for however, that the griever might need some professional assistance with their grief. How this is handled is extremely important as well. Suggesting it might ease or assist them through their healing process, rather than suggesting they need help in an accusatory manner can make all the difference in whether they reach out or withdraw within.

Some indicators the griever needs professional help:

  • Loss of interest in things that were previously important.
  • Excessive indulgence or interest in negative activities, i.e. – overeating, alcohol, drugs, elicit sex, illegal activity or placing themselves or others in harms way.
  • Drastic change of appearance – frumpy or unclean, wrinkled clothes; provocative attire or convent look.
  • Change in friendships – old [long term] friends forgotten and/or replaced by new “thrill seekers.”
  • Negative view or lost purpose of living
  • Excessive sleeping or insomnia
  • Talks of their own death as a means of relief.
  • Completely avoids or ignores the loss, tries to act like event never happened.
  • Any sudden obsession or preoccupation of a fatalistic nature.
  • Any activity outside of their usual mannerism can be an indicator.

It is not always easy to determine when a person crosses that line of what is considered acceptable under the circumstances, but if you have any concerns what-so-ever it is better to err on the side of prevention. This might be a time to consider talking with others who are most familiar with the griever [family members] to monitor the situation and come up with an intervention plan.
There are no fast and hard rules when it comes to grieving, each person handles these events differently. But, when it starts interfering with their daily lives or the daily lives of their loved ones, it’s time for intervention. And remember, although you don’t want to project onto others, recalling your own past experience can sometimes guide you with the best course of action. What helped you survive your own grieving process or what actually made you feel worse?

Finding activities or a focus of interest can improve your emotional state. Depending on your loss, sometimes joining an organization that promotes awareness of the loss you suffer can be an instrument toward healing. Joining groups of same, like experiences will help the healing process by sharing experiences with others going through the very loss you are experiencing.

The most important thing to remember when all is said and done — focus on the positives in your life. And when you start questioning your purpose for being or the point to life, just remember all those who love you, depend on you, and would be lost without you. Then go share the love… and maybe even hug a total stranger. You just might be surprised what a positive effect it has on your emotions, mental state and even your healing process.

This article written and provided by: O’Della Wilson AKA Alhavakia, published author and freelance writer.I am of firm belief that words are one of the most powerful offerings we possess. Inspire others to aspire to greater things and anything becomes possible.
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