It is painful when someone you love dies. Grief is an emotional response to loss. It’s vital to know the responses before understanding how to help someone through bereavement. The grieving process stages include denial, anger, bargaining, despair, and acceptance.
Seeing someone you care about go through emotional pain and profound sadness is tough. At the same time, it can be challenging to know what to say or how to help. At My Psychiatrist, our team of licensed clinicians specializes in providing personalized mental health care. Our goal is to ensure we provide you with tools for how you can help your loved ones cope with grief and loss.
If left untreated, prolonged grief can lead to unemployment, loss of friendships, substance use disorders and addictions, impaired productivity, and deteriorating physical and mental health. In this article, we will discuss how you can help a grieving person take control of emotions, overcome trauma, and help heal from the hurt of losing a loved one.
What is grief?
Grief is a normal reaction to loss. The death of the loved one is life’s most stressful event and can cause a major emotional crisis. It is often accompanied by intense pain and sadness. You may feel a range of feelings, such as shock, numbness, anger, despair, remorse, denial, and great sadness. Bereavement and grief can also interfere with your physical health, making it difficult to sleep, eat, or even think clearly. The greater the intensity of our losses, the more severe the reaction to them. Life’s most stressful event is losing a loved one, and it can cause a severe emotional crisis. Remember, you are not alone, don’t suffer in silence. There is help available.
Symptoms of grief:
While everyone reacts differently to a loss, most of us encounter the following symptoms when we are in mourning. It is important to remember, that all feelings are valid. The pain of loss can feel overwhelming. My Psychiatrist offers healthy ways to cope with grief and take the first step toward healing. By acknowledging the signs and symptoms of grief, you can help someone who has been bereaved. Let’s break the stigma, raise awareness and heal together. The following are common signs of grief:
- Shock and disbelief
It can be difficult to accept what has happened immediately following a loss. One may feel numb, have difficulty understanding that death occurred, or even deny the truth.
Profound sadness is the most common symptom of grief. A bereaved person may experience feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, or profound loneliness. One may also find oneself crying a lot or feeling emotionally unstable.
Dealing with loss may come with regrets or feelings of guilt about something that was said or done. A person may also feel guilty about certain emotions. He/she may experience feelings of intense sadness for not protecting the loved one or preventing death altogether. The survivor’s guilt is an important symptom to look out for while helping someone cope with grief.
Healing from grief happens gradually. Difficult emotions such as anger can occur. If the deceased one was very close or died unexpectedly, the anger and grief may be more intense. One may be upset with self, the physicians, or even the deceased person. Grief can trigger anger for the injustice of losing the loved one.
How to Help a Grieving Friend
If grief is affecting your loved ones’ life, there are things you can do that may help.
Understand the grieving process
The more you understand about sorrow and grief and how it is treated, the more prepared you will be to assist a person going through bereavement. Grief does not always progress in neat, predictable stages. It can be an emotional journey, with ups and downs that are unpredictable. Guilt, anger, despair, and fear are all prevalent emotions. A bereaved person may display a lot of anger, obsess about death, lash out at loved ones, or cry for hours. For those who are supporting a loved one in grief, it is crucial to avoid judging the responses they may display and experience. Sometimes all it takes is to be there for them, even if it means is simply sit in silence.
What to Say to a Grieving Friend
Each person experiences grief differently. What to say to someone who has been bereaved?
It can be helpful to offer a safe space to talk and let them know that you are there to listen. Many bereaved people find it difficult to ask for assistance. You can ask if they need help with anything: daily chores and routine obligations might be too much for a bereaved person. Ask if they would like assistance with cooking, help with funeral arrangements, assistance with kids, taking care of pets, etc.
Be sensitive to the emotional turmoil they’re going through, and ensure that whatever they’re feeling is OK and is a part of the grieving process. A grieving person will experience a diversity of emotions, including numbness, guilt, anger, pain shock, and overwhelming sadness.
When helping a friend in grief, acknowledge how difficult it is for them. We can’t take their pain away, but we can be there for them in their journey. You can say things such as “I’m sorry things are so tough now”, “I wish there was anything I could do to make things better and ease your suffering”. Make them feel seen, heard, and not alone.
It is often helpful to share loving memories of the person that passed away. By doing that, you can help them focus on the positive and build a stronger connection and a safe relationship where all emotions and feelings are valid. Simply be there for them and avoid trying to “fix” things. Avoid setting expectations on how long grieving should last or how intense the suffering should be. Everyone copes with bereavement at their own pace.
Living With Grief
Encourage your loved one or a friend to express their feelings and help them to take care of not only their physical but mental health as well. Offer to seek professional help when necessary. Sometimes it takes a licensed clinician to help with mental health during bereavement. Be patient with them while helping through the grieving process. It’s ok not to be ok. At My Psychiatrist, our board-certified psychiatrists and clinicians offer compassionate online and in-person therapy. It takes courage to seek a more fulfilling life and to take the first steps toward change. If you are ready to take that step, providers at My Psychiatrist are here to support and empower you.
Complicated Grief Warning Signs
A grieving person is likely to feel unhappy, confused, distant from others, or as if they are not being themselves. If the bereaved person’s symptoms do not progressively improve, or even worsen over time, look for signs of complicated grief. Losing a loved one is traumatic and stressful. Usually, grief and responses associated with it take a natural pace, and feelings of numbness, anger, sorrow, and guilt gradually subside. When recovery time is significantly prolonged and painful emotions strengthen and become increasingly more debilitating, it is called complicated grief, also known as persistent complex bereavement disorder. This heightened state of mourning prevents a person from healing.
Common signs of complicated grief:
- Bitterness about the loss of the loved one
- Wishing it was him/her who died instead of the deceased
- Self-blame for not “saving” the lost person
- Numbness and self-isolation
- Refusal accepting loss
- Feelings that life is meaningless
- Lack of trust
- Trouble caring out daily tasks
- Intense sorrow
- Rumination over the loss
- Intense longing for the lost loved one
- Extreme focus on reminders or extreme avoidance of reminders
If the grief is still intense for over a year after bereavement, and if there are significant problems functioning, please seek professional help. If you or someone you love are experiencing complicated grief, please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org, or call My Psychiatrist at 877-548-8089. We are here to help.
At My Psychiatrist, we know how hard it can be to find a counselor who you feel a connection with. Our licensed clinicians are here to help you and offer support by providing a safe, authentic, and compassionate clinical setting with an individualized therapy experience. Whether you prefer online therapy or are looking for a therapist in Hollywood, Oakland Park, Boca Raton, or Miami, Florida, schedule a time to consult about how My Psychiatrist may be able to help you identify your goals and make plans to achieve them.
Taking the first step to sign up for therapy can take courage and My Psychiatrist is proud of you for getting started.