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The death of a loved one, albeit family or friend is often one of the most difficult experiences one can experience in his or her lifetime. Those of us that have lost a loved one often struggle with many different, intense, and conflicting emotions. These emotions range from depression, fear, anger, abandonment, confusion, and guilt. Too many times the individual(s) that have lost a loved one feels alone in his or her grief.

Grief like life, is individual and unique, it is never the same, doesn’t feel the same, doesn’t look the same in every person. Even if those we love had many others in their life that loved them , the love and loss feels different and unique to each person that experiences the loss. Having someone that can provide an ear, shoulder, a voice, and many times a tissue can help the bereaved through the grieving process.

There are no exclusively right or wrong things to say when those we care about have lost someone near and dear to them. Most of the time words aren’t necessary, just the comfort of your presence, just knowing when and if it is needed or desired there will be someone there to listen.

The first step to helping someone manage the grieving process entails, listening with compassion without judgment.

The second step that can be used to help those struggling with grief includes volunteering to help ease some of their personal “loads or obligations”, i.e., grocery shopping, picking the kids up from school, preparing a meal, going to the dry cleaners, contacting others regarding final arrangements, etc.

The third step includes resisting the urge to tell the bereaved how strong they are or how strong you think they should be.

The fourth Step requires that those that love the bereaved make periodic check-ins to provide comfort, support, and assistance whenever the need or opportunity arises.

The final step involves knowing when the grief process has escalated into a potentially dangerous area, the bereaved may be exhibiting suicidal thoughts or ideations. There is only so much support and comfort a family member or friend can offer to someone grieving without putting too much strain on themselves. Gently suggest seeking therapeutic help to give the bereaved a special place to cope with and process their loss.

As a reminder, most of the challenges one faces occurs after the final arrangements have ended, i.e., burial, cremation, etc. Planning the final arrangements for those we have lost can serve as a distraction, often taking our mind temporarily away from what we have truly lost. Most of the pain of loss and grieving occurs once the services have concluded. Family members and friends must resume their individual lives which consist of several different responsibilities and the bereaved are left to confront the loss in their own individual and unique way. This is typically a time when support and encouragement are needed the most. Unfortunately, this is when true grieving and the profound meaning of loss has occurred. Continue to be supportive to those that appear to be struggling in their grief. Unlike physical pain which can provided some reasonable idea of when it could or should end, emotional pain can hide from plain view and become more difficult to manage than physical pain.

How were you able to manage your feelings of loss? Who was instrumental in helping you deal with your grief? How do you feel you were helped? What did you feel was unhelpful to you during the grieving process?