We grieve because we love; photo: pexels
Regardless of age, gender and nationality, death is a constant and universal companion for all people. On the one hand, it gives life its value. On the other hand, bereavement may be devastating to you or those around you. Many people wonder not only how they can cope with life’s finiteness, but also how they can help other bereaved people. Grief can help us life a more fulfilling life. Therefore, it is essential to understand what grief is.
Grief – what is it?
In the dictionary of psychology, grief is defined as the reaction to loss. According to brain studies, two brain areas, in particular, are significantly impacted in mourners: the cerebellum and the limbic system, a collection of interconnected brain structures in our heads. Our cerebellum regulates movement activities, while the limbic system is in charge of our emotions.
The shock of losing a loved one disrupts normal brain processes. Consequently, intense feelings such as aggression and helplessness may emerge. Chest pain, high blood pressure or nausea are common symptoms of grief. So, grief can even cause physical pain. This is the origin of the saying “broken heart”. Losing a loved one will always have physical and emotional effects that are different for each individual. As a result, there are no “TÜV-certified” guidelines on how dependents should behave towards grieving people.
The following three suggestions- not pieces of advice! – can, but must not, help you in dealing with grievers.
1. Suggestion: Do not impose your standards
Mourning processes are as diverse as the people who experience them. For example, the four stages of mourning defined by Verena Knast may apply to some, but not to all.
Knast named the four stages of mourning as follows:
- Not wanting to believe
- Erupting emotions
- Searching and separating
- A new perspective at oneself and the world
Certainly, it is a liberating feeling when dependents explain to grievers that they are free in their mourning, as long as their behaviour does not purposely harm anyone.
The Intensity and length of grief is highly variable. Some people are extremely resilient. They are mentally tough. You don’t always notice their grief.
Others express their pain openly. Both is permitted. Even if you’ve heard it a million times, proverbs like “time heals all wounds” do not apply to everyone. Pain intensity may lessen over time, but it may not be cured. Even after decades, some people refuse to speak about a loved one who has passed away. Grief cannot be measured in time. As a result, the obligatory year of mourning, which you may be familiar with from home, is not a standard. Some mourners carry on with their daily routines or try to close the gap. People might accuse grievers of failing to love and respect the deceased person. In moments like this, family and friends should keep in mind that everyone has a different perspective on live.
Things to say to someone in grief
Give yourself the time you need to grieve. I wish you a lot of strength until you find your way of moving forward. And if you wish, I’ll be happy to stand by your side.
There are no guidelines for the length and intensity of grief. Give your sorrow the time and care it needs.
You don’t have to be how you believe people expect you to be. If you desire, I will gladly help you.
How to overcome common myths about grief
“Death and grief: psychologist gives tips | On the loo ” is s video that contains useful information about bereavement support.
2. Suggestion: Be honest – with yourself and with others
When speaking with grieving people, avoid using empty phrases. Nobody knows what happens after death. Nobody knows for certain if the deceased person is truly in a better place. A word of suggestion: It is better to be honest and admit your insecurities.
Things to say to someone in grief
What happened to you touches me deeply. I would like to do and say the right thing, but I feel insecure because I’ve never been through anything like this.
Please let me know if you need anything. Now or when the time comes. I’m always willing to listen.
Even though we don’t always agree on everything, I’ll be there for you and listen.
Moreover, it can also be beneficial to take a break and tackle the subject of grieving from a different angle. When engaging the topic, personal experiences, such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Notes on Grief” , may be a good starting point. Adichie’s essay is about her feelings and experiences after the loss of her father.
3. Suggestion: Support actively rather than passively
Perseverance is an important quality to support a grieving person. Nobody shows any emotional or physical presence with a request such as “Let me know if you need anything or me”. Of course, those who are in grief shall be left alone, if they desire so. Nevertheless, regular contact, and hence the relationship with someone in mourning, is not supposed to end.
To stay in touch, simple offers of support, like shopping or cleaning, can make life so much easier.
Things to say to someone in grief
I do appreciate our friendship. If you’d like, I’ll check you (call /write /visit) once a week.
I’ll ask you more frequently whether you need someone or something. I hope I can support you.
My thoughts are with you.
Engage in heartfelt action
In addition, it may be beneficial to follow your heart and take action. There is no reason to hold back a heartfelt action like a chocolate package, if you think it might give comfort to a mourning person. Allow your heart to guide you and deliver the person a “care package”. Daniela, the founder of Balduin Box, created a concept for coping with bereavement based on passionate deeds with consolation boxes. She would like to give grievers something that would have made it easier for her to deal with her feelings after the loss of her son.
The non-profit organization tries to help people who are mourning through consolation boxes. Many utensils, such as remembrance cards, sunflower seeds, and organza bags, are packed into boxes.
Death, grief and help are complex topics. The abundance of information may overwhelm one, frighten another, while yet again, someone else will find exactly what is needed.
Even if you follow these suggestions, despite your best efforts, a grieving person may react differently than you expected. When it comes to grieving aid, mistakes can happen because grieve is usually a state of emergency. To help grievers, it is necessary to at least attempt to do so. In other words, if you do not try, you will not be able to make any mistakes, but you probably will not be able to help a grieving person either.