Give Us A Call: (616) 929-0248

4 Tips for Supporting Grieving Loved Ones

It’s difficult to watch the ones we love suffer. Whether it’s through a divorce, a scary diagnosis, or the death of another. While we generally have the best intentions towards supporting our grieving loved ones, figuring out how to provide this support can be confusing and intimidating.

Here’s a framework to consider when helping a loved one through the grieving process.

1. Avoid Silver Linings

There’s a couple dreaded statements those in a state of grief often hear.

“It could be worse.”

“Look on the bright side.”

“Everything happens for a reason.”

While these are generally stated with good intent, the message that your loved one’s pain is unwarranted can be maddening. When people are in horrible situations, it is normal for them to feel horrible. While we certainly don’t want to feel horrible forever, it’s an important part of processing grief.

It’s difficult to sit with discomfort, and it can be tempting to add a ray of light to bring your loved one out of their pain. But this often makes people feel lonelier, or gives the impression they ought to be feeling differently than they do right now.

2. Don’t Compare

When we hear about an awful situation, it’s natural for our minds to come up with similar situations we’ve experienced before. This response is our brain trying to be empathetic – imagining the most similar scenario we can think of to start to understand what might be happening now. While this is helpful for you, it’s not helpful for your loved one to hear. Let your brain make those connections, but keep them in your mind.

Adding in your own experiences, or those of someone you know, changes the focus from a loved one’s pain to yours, and forces them to acknowledge your pain when they’re the ones in need of support. It’s important to keep your support focused on your loved one unless they ask otherwise.

3. Listen, don’t Solve

It’s uncomfortable to watch someone we care about suffer. So uncomfortable that we usually get a pretty strong urge to fix what’s happening. However, it’s important when providing support that we take on the role of a listener, not a problem solver.

Offering an overabundance of advice, or sometimes any advice, can imply that if your loved one were only a bit more hardworking or clever, they could fix their situation. This can turn pain into personal failing, instead of acknowledging what it is – a rather crappy hand dealt by the universe.

Being kind is more important than being the one with answers. Use advice sparingly.

4. Follow Their Lead

There are countless ways that people react to awful experiences. And that’s okay. Grief varies from person to person, and situation to situation. This also means there is no one perfect way to provide support to your grieving loved ones. So, follow their lead, use what you know about your loved one, and understand that they might not know what they need all the time either.

Ultimately being present for a grieving loved one is the most important thing you can do for them. There is no perfect script, but truly supportive messages all communicate the same thing: I care about you and I’m here for you.

If we can help you in any way, please reach out to us!

About the Author:

Sarah Hazelwood is a counselor in Ada, Michigan

Sarah Hazelwood is a counselor here at Lifeologie. She understands that discovering your identity, and creating meaning for yourself is a huge project, but that it can also be one of life’s most exciting pursuits – even though it’s terrifying sometimes!

Sarah specializes in working with older teens and adults to find their own path and work out life’s challenges. To find out more about Sarah, check out her biography.