Grief isn’t only felt when someone we love passes away – although that is undoubtedly one of the most common sources. Grief can also be due to a life-altering event, a health crisis that modifies your way of life, the end of a relationship, world events, etc. Unfortunately, it is hard for many of us to understand grief if we haven’t lived it, and sometimes we simply don’t know what to say. Below, we discuss grief and how to support those experiencing it.
Coping With Grief
You may have heard about the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But in reality, grief is not always a linear experience. Grief can come in waves. One day you can feel denial, then guilt, and, suddenly, be back in the denial stage. You can experience depression just after denial but before reaching anger. Along with the stages of grief, you may also experience difficult emotions such as anxiety, distress, and shock.
Grief is felt and coped with differently by children, teens, and adults. According to a 1999 study, children showed higher levels of emotional disturbance for up to two years after experiencing a significant loss. Moreover, 37% of the sample size of bereaved children presented a major depressive disorder one year later. On the other hand, teens are more likely to internalize their grief than young children and adults.
In adulthood, grief can manifest in loss of appetite, weight gain, irritability and more. In addition, many adults describe experiencing grief in pangs of pain, despair, and more.
How to Support a Grieving Friend
It is hard to know how to act or what to say to someone who is grieving. Instead of distancing yourself or feeling awkward, know that the person appreciates your presence in any capacity. The following are appropriate things to say or do for a grieving friend or family member.
- I am here to support you however you need me to.
- I am sorry for your loss and pain. Please let me know how I can support you.
- Bring food and make sure they eat and take care of themselves.
- Accept how a person needs to grieve (as long as it isn’t causing them harm).
- Avoid giving advice about grief.
- Listen to them vent, cry, and their needs.
- Assist with everyday tasks like grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, or babysitting.
- Accept that grief doesn’t end within a set time frame of a month, a year, or even longer.
If you or a loved one have experienced grief, we welcome your stories in the comments below.