about bereavement, and how to work through being a support system for your loved one
When you fall in love and spend a lifetime with your significant other, it is just unimaginable being without that special someone. It is so devastating to lose your better half . . . it is kind of like losing a part of yourself. Coping with the loss of a spouse has got to be one of the most difficult challenges most of us may face at one time in our lives, coming to terms with a life that is now void of their friend and partner.
It is difficult to know what to say or do to help someone through the bereavement process but the most important thing is to just be there, be a support system. Your support and caring presence will help them to cope with the pain and begin to heal.
First, you surely do not want to be telling your loved one how they should be feeling. Grief is like an emotional rollercoaster, with unpredictable highs, lows and setbacks . . . and everyone grieves differently. Secondly, do not judge or take their actions and reactions personally. Their may be feelings of guilt, anger, despair, and fear. A grieving person may yell to the heavens, obsess about the death, lash out at loved ones, or cry for hours on end. Just let them work through their feelings at their own pace. Thirdly, don’t pressure your loved one to “get over it” as the grieving process can take anywhere from 18 to 24 months . . . for many it may take a lot longer or shorter.
More of the steps in helping your grieving loved one . . . or any grieving person is to be compassionate and listen with compassion to their feelings. It is always difficult to know what to say to a person who is going through a loss. The surviving spouse needs to feel that their loss is acknowledged, it’s not too terrible to talk about, and their loved one won’t be forgotten. While you do not want to force them to open up if they do not want to, they also need to know they have permission to talk about the loss. Accept and acknowledge their feelings, whether it is crying, screaming, anger, breaking down; they need to know they can express their feelings to you without judgment. However, if they choose to just sit in silence, you can be there for the comfort and support they need . . . in silence. Let them talk about how their spouse died, even if it is repeated over and over, and let them know whatever they are feeling is okay. Just never claim to “know how they feel”.
Try offering help with errands, tasks, whatever. It is difficult for many grieving people to ask for help. They might feel guilty about receiving so much attention, fear being a burden, or be too depressed to reach out. You may have to take the initiative to offer your help, making specific suggestions such as shopping, cooking a meal, just to be there for phone calls and guests, help with bills, housework and more.
Your next step is support for the long haul. They are not going to heal over night. Keep checking in with them and never give up. It is also common for the bereaved to feel depressed, confused or disconnected from others but that should fade over time. If it does not seem to be getting better, or that it actually is getting worse, that can be a sign that they have elapsed into a clinical depression and may need further help. Instead of telling the person what to do, try stating in your own feelings such as “I am troubled by the fact that you aren’t sleeping – perhaps you should look into getting help.”
We all want to help our loved ones through their pain and grief and wish we can take it away. We cannot. All we can do is be a true support system for them and let them know that you are there to help them through all their feelings without judgment . . . but rather with love, comfort, help and support. That their feelings are justified and you respect them, love them and will be there for them every step of the way.
For further information on helping a person through bereavement, check additional resources on the internet, including a great site that I have found - http://www.helpguide.org/mental/helping_grieving.htm.