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Grief Awareness Week: Tips If Someone You Know Is Grieving

*Please note this blog is a personal reflection of grief after losing someone to cancer so may contain upsetting details or be triggering for some readers*

I haven’t been on my grief journey for long, and whilst I know I have been lucky enough to have incredible support who have given me space to talk, others prefer not to speak about their loss and need more time. It is important just to give someone quiet uninterrupted space and take their lead in how they approach the topic or if they want to avoid it.

From my own experience so far (because make no mistake, grief has no start and no end date), I can offer the following to those who want to support their grieving loved ones and friends:

1) Don’t disappear on the person who is grieving

A lot of people don’t know what to say to someone who has just lost a loved one and so they decide to not contact them at all or hide away from them for a while. Simple phrases like “I’m so sorry”, “I’m thinking of you”, and “Let me know if there’s anything you need”, are all wonderful things to hear. Just make contact. Just hold their hand. Just let them know you are there. It makes the difference between a really, really rough day and a day they feel enough love and support to get through.

2) Don’t belittle or dismiss someone’s grief

Whether the death was after a long illness or if it was sudden, no one can prepare themselves for the loss, so avoid saying things like “they are in a better place now”, “we knew this was coming”, “life goes on” or “this will get easier”. Grief takes a huge toll on an individual’s mental, physical and emotional state, and by not allowing the person to express this safely or in its entirety makes the process extremely hard for them. Be kind and follow their lead.

3) Share your experiences of the one they lost

There is comfort in hearing about the impact and memories that you have of the loved one they have lost. Funny stories, kind interactions and thoughtful experiences all make it feel like the loved one is present and close. Grief can often feel like it overshadows the memory of the person who has died and so talking about happier memories of them helps bring warmer feelings forward even for just a little while.

Of all these things, what you need to do is listen. And I mean really listen. Be sure to allow those silences for the person to think and feel. The value in allowing safe space for them to explore, ramble and say whatever is on their minds is invaluable (even if it's not about their loss as they don't feel ready or just want to talk about something else). Feeling like you are really being understood without interruption or having the other person waiting to chip with their thoughts is invaluable. In the loneliest of times, feeling held through being listened to is the most incredible support you could ever give.

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