How can you be a supportive friend/ family to someone that is going through grief right now?
Avoid trying to fix the grieving
The person that is grieving doesn’t need to be fixed. Don’t try to convince them that everything will be alright soon or ask if they are okay because it’s evident that they are having a hard time going through so many different kinds of emotions. It might be tempting to send uplifting, hopeful or even humorous messages to try to ease their pain but even though it’s an attempt coming from a good place, it can often leave people feeling as if their pain is not seen, heard, or valid.
A suggestion would be to show up and do something for them instead of asking them “ Is there anything I can help?” Often when a person is grieving, they don’t know what they want and would be out of themselves for a while. So, a good way would be to accompany them and show your support.
Never force it
We might want to help so badly in order for the grieving person to feel better. But to be honest, there is nothing we can do or say to improve the situation. Nowadays, society is always fixated on a concept where we have to fix everything and we forget that we can just be present for that person, without talking. We might think forcing them to talk and process their feelings as quickly as possible will be helpful for them. In reality, it does the opposite especially when they’re not ready and it might be an obstacle for them to heal properly.
Make yourself accessible
Always let the grieving know that you are available for when they are ready and remind them that they shouldn't hesitate to come and talk to you. When they decide that they are ready to talk about their grief, remember to provide understanding and validation. We can always mark down any dates that you think might trigger the person who is grieving. Just a text or a call on that day to say “ Hey I know today will be tough but I am here if you want to talk about anything!” would be appreciated.
Dos and don’ts to someone that is grieving
Be there with the person without saying anything
Give a hug
Things you could say:
“ I am so sorry for your loss”
“ I wish I had the right words but I am always here to listen and talk”
“ You and your loved ones will be in my thoughts”
“ I am thinking of you”
“ I am always just a phone call or a text away”
“ call or text me if you need anything”
“ Everything happens for a reason”
“ You have to try to move on and get back to your normal life”
“ Everything will be okay soon”
“ They are in a better place”
“ I know how you feel”
“ Be strong for them”
How does grief affect your physical health?
Lose your appetite and find it difficult to eat
Sleep disturbances and dreams about your loss
Aches and pain
Weakened immune system
Broken heart syndrome
Even though these signs could be worrying and confusing, they are really common. These are normal reactions to distress and loss, and should pass in time. But you may want to consult your GP if the conditions persist or if you need some help managing them.
Things to do to help you to distract yourself or make yourself feel better with the pain from grief
Don’t grieve alone
While it is important for you to process your feelings, try not to become disconnected from the community. We know it is really hard to let people in but please try because talking about your grief might really help the healing process. Talk about the memories you guys had together, look through the videos and pictures together and remind yourself how fun you had with that person or thing that you are grieving. Sharing these intimate memories might bring you closer in some of your relationships. Know that all of your feelings are valid and completely normal and you are never alone.
Take care of yourself
Self care is really important especially when you are grieving. Basic hygiene, nutrition and sleep all count as self care. When you are grieving, you might not feel like you have the energy to do any regular routines. Remember your loved ones would not want you to fall apart because of them so try taking things slow and don’t force yourself to go back to your normal routine. Remember there is no timeline for grieving and you can take as long as you want. There will be good and bad days throughout the grief process but that is completely normal and okay. Everyone grieves differently as well so have patience with yourself and your feelings when you are dealing with your loss.
Seek professional help
If you want more support outside your social circle or you are struggling with your mental health and the grief process affects your daily activity too much, consider seeing a therapist or a counselor. “ When you are physically not well, you go and see a doctor so when you are mentally not well, it is completely okay to seek help from a therapist or a counselor.” They might be able to give you the tools to understand and process your feelings. Sometimes, loss can be unbearable and too much to endure and accept. Be aware of the difference between complicated grief with trauma and grief. Complicated grief is feeling like you cannot accept your loss for a long period of time. Trauma blocks the grieving process and when you try to get back to your daily routine, you will find yourself being retraumatised again and again.
If you are suffering from flashbacks, uncontrollable crying, panic attacks, loss of identity, intrusive thoughts and feelings of worthlessness , it is likely that you are experiencing trauma or complicated grief and should immediately contact a professional. It is completely normal and it would be good if you seek help as soon as possible.
Researcher: Tiffany Ngai, Editor: Charlotte Leung, Thumbnail + Text Transcription: Megan Kwok