How To Help In Times Of Grief
Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the thousands of people whose lives were claimed by the deadly disease, there is hardly a family that has not suffered one loss or the other.
In Nigeria, our case is even made worse by the killings orchestrated by bandits, kidnappers and herdsmen that have become like a movie series. Death is not only raining, it is pouring and with it, comes grief and sorrow that the bereaved must bear.
Quite often, it is not easy to find the right words to comfort a person who is bereaved or has suffered a loss. Notwithstanding, you are expected to say something to offer your sympathy, and show your support to the person. Your words don’t have to be long; rather, focus on how you say it. Remember that the person has just suffered a loss and he or she will be very sensitive to words. If you have a tendency to say the wrong thing or have bad timing with comments, make a concerted effort to change your behaviour. What is important at such a time, is to stay connected, available and to offer words that touch the heart.
When visiting with somebody who has suffered a loss, be guided by the following tips.
1. Listen more, talk less
It is a common site to see visitors to a grieving friend or family member make an effort to help the grieving friend feel better by talking so much. No amount of talking will help when all the bereaved wants is to find one to whom he or she can pour out his or her heart.
When you are in the presence of someone who is grieving, try to listen more and talk less. Give your bereaved friend the space to express him or herself and feel heard. If or when they initiate the conversation, let them pour out their heart and not constantly interject with your contributions.
2. Don’t say “I know how you feel”
When it comes to grieving, no two experiences are the same. A woman who has never lost a child or spouse cannot say to another who is grieving the loss of a child or husband that, “I know how you feel.” Such statements are too sweeping and does not help the one grieving. When words fail you, keep silent or just hold the hands of the bereaved and let your touch bring some reassurance and comfort.
3. Be willing to sit in silence
Grief ushers in a variety of strong emotions. The grIeving person is trying to process many thoughts and at the same time, trying to find peace within. At such times, all she needs is some peace and quiet.
If the grieving person needs to sit in silence to regain some semblance of peace, be willing to sit in silence for the duration of your visit. Resist the urge to speak and let your presence be felt through your silence. This can be therapeutic as being there is a sign of your love and support.
4. Don’t start a loud conversation
If you are a guest in the home of the grieving family members, never start loud conversations about unrelated matters. Again, the point must be stressed that when words fail you, rather than discussing issues like newspaper headlines that bring no comfort to the bereaved, apply the golden rule and keep silent.
5. Help out with practical tasks
Offer or volunteer practical assistance by helping with little tasks around the house like, grocery shopping, doing the dishes, school run or any task that will take a burden off the shoulder of the bereaved.
Being sad is lonely. You can from time to time, send text messages that will lift her spirit or make her pull a smile. A text saying, “thinking of you” or “You are not alone” will sure go a long way to help the bereaved feel better. Find your own way to offer help to the grieving friend after all, as her friend, you are in a position to know her better.
6. Don’t compare your experience, to the present unless it is fitting
The fact that two people have suffered the loss of a spouse doesn’t make the experience the same. A spouse who passed peacefully at 80 or 85 years, cannot be a fitting comparison to a 45 year old spouse who died of cancer or renal failure after months of being in and out of hospital. Such natural instinct should be resisted.
7. Don’t comment on their appearance
Sometimes, one’s pain of grieving manifests in his or her appearance. Others do a good job of hiding their pain by maintaining appearance. Unless you catch them unawares, you may never know how they are truly feeling. So, if there are physical indicators that they’re suffering, don’t comment on that either by giving diet, hygiene or fashion tips.