Every small gesture counts.
Losing someone who was a huge part of your life can be shocking, overwhelming and painful. There will be a lot of confused and messy feelings and you may think that nothing will cheer you up afterwards. It’s a difficult journey trying to deal with the repercussions of a death in the family, especially if the bereaved was close. Speaking to clinical psychologist, Shalindi Pandithakoralage (MPhil), she shared her expertise on how you can help a friend or relative cope with the grief that follows.
1. Be Understanding
The first way to help a grieving person is to understand what they’re going through. Everyone deals with it differently and there’s no right or wrong way to go about it. You can’t plan it in a neat and orderly manner, as much you’d like to.
“Grieving mostly come in waves. Sometimes the waves may be strong and cause you to stop in your tracks. At other times, the waves may be subtle but cause a nagging feeling of sadness in the back of your mind. Remember that the grief belongs to the griever! Do not force your ideas of ‘how it should be done’ on them,” advises Shalindi.
2. Be Available
Your friend will need you more than ever at this time. They may talk about the loved one they lost so be open to discussing experiences, even if it appears hard. It may be tempting to change the subject since it feels uncomfortable. However, it will mean a lot to them if you just listen when they need comfort the most.
3. Be Helpful
Running errands with the griever is a great way to offer practical support. They’ll love you for spending time with them. Try to get them involved in activities that will help them move back into a normal routine. It’s important to make sure that they aren’t being left out, but do give them space when they need it.
“Let them know that you’re willing to listen or provide comfort from time-to-time, even months after the death. Usually there is an influx of support within the first few months, and then the person may feel extremely lonely after a while. This is when they need to know that you’re still around. Don’t constantly remind them that they’re grieving, but just let them know your doors are open if they need you,” explains Shalindi.
4. Be Aware
Sometimes the person may not be dealing with the grief in a healthy manner. Of course, there’s no exact time period that they will need to process their sadness, but sometimes things may be too overwhelming for them to handle. If you’re not sure how to identify their condition, keep an eye out for these warning signs:
*Preoccupation with the deceased or with the circumstances surrounding the death (for months/years after the loss)
*Constantly feeling empty or thinking everything is meaningless
*Has trouble engaging in happy memories
*Actively avoids reminders of the loved one
*Shows a lack of desire to pursue personal interests or previously pleasurable activities
*Experiences intense bitterness or anger
*Using alcohol and/or drugs
*Engaging in self-harm (such as cutting)
*Deviating from usual self (risky sexual behavior/driving recklessly/deliberately putting herself in dangerous situations)
The thing to watch out for is if her (or his) moods are not improving even over a span of a year or more, and in return is interfering with their ability to return to daily life.
5. Be Proactive
A death of someone significant can be an extremely painful experience, and can turn your whole world upside down – from your personality, to your beliefs to even your perception of reality at times. So, when you spot tell-tale signs of a person is suffering from depression or prolonged grief, it’s important they receive immediate aid. They may not be willing to admit that they aren’t coping with the loss or be open to receiving therapy. However, be firm and get them the help they need.
Currently, Sri Lanka doesn’t conduct specialized grief counselling services. However, organizations such as Sri Lanka Sumithrayo and the Psychological Sciences Institute have psychologists and counsellors who are well trained in grief counselling. So, don’t be afraid to speak to them about treatment whether it is for yourself or for a friend or family member dealing with loss.
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