Continuing on from last week's blog about grief, this week's blog is about how to support someone who is grieving, and where to access support.
As we discussed last week, grief is complicated. There's no one "right" way to grieve, and people are entitled to come to terms with their loss in their own time. That said, there are a few things that might help if you, or someone you care about, is struggling with grief.
Give them time
It might sound obvious, but generally as humans we don't respond well to emotions that we see as "negative." If someone is sad, we often want to "fix" it so that they feel happy again, but with grief that's not really possible and is likely to make the person feel misunderstood or worse, make them feel that they can't grieve in the way they need to. It's okay for people to be sad after someone has died, and it's okay for that sadness to come in waves and last for a while. The more you push yourself (or your loved one) to "get over it," the longer it's likely to take them to process their loss - or they'll just shut down and not talk to you about it.
Offer concrete help
How many times have you texted someone "you know where I am if you need me" and then assumed that they'll reach out if they want something? Now think about how hard it might be to actually reach out for the kind of help that would be the most useful after someone has died - talking about how you feel, or looking after the kids so that they can have a break. Not easy.
Instead of a blanket offer of support, try to make your offer a bit more specific and concrete - for example, "why don't you come over tonight and I'll cook some food," or "do you want me to bring you any shopping over?" People are often grateful for the offer and, if it misses the mark, it helps them to say what they actually need ("I don't need shopping thanks, but it would be good to see you - coffee?")
Prioritise the basics
If you've read this blog before you'll know I'm a big fan of the things that sound quite basic, and that's because they're usually really effective. Making sure that you're getting enough food, water, a bit of outdoor time and enough sleep can help to keep you going through times of crisis and often, they're the only things that help to get you back on track. Encouraging someone to eat or have a cup of tea, even if they don't think they want it, or managing to get them out of the house for a couple of hours, can have a really powerful effect.
Comfort in, complain out
Ring Theory, developed by Silk and Goldman, is a nice, simple way of understanding what might be helpful in a crisis. Imagine that the person most affected is at the centre of a series of concentric rings (for example if you lost a child this might be you and your partner, then your extended family, your friends, the child's school friends, etc). We don't want to be complaining too much to people closer to the centre of the rings (e.g. "you're upset, how do you think I feel?") and we want to offer comfort if possible, but we also need to be able to talk about how difficult we're finding things to people who are maybe a bit less affected by it. Life often isn't super neat in this way, and there are often multiple people who might be at the centre of the crisis, but a general rule should be "comfort those in rings closer to the centre than you are, and complain/discuss how hard it is with people in rings further away than your own."
Sources of support for people struggling with grief
If it's been a while and you're still struggling with grief (you find yourself bursting into tears at random times, for example, or you just feel that you could do with a bit of extra support) then the following are UK-based sources of support:
If you have any further resources that might be helpful for people, let me know in the comments. Dealing with grief isn't easy, but know that you're not alone, and it does get better.
Dr Sarah Blackshaw: Clinical Psychologist, blogger, tea drinker, interested in dinosaurs and shiny objects