Have you ever been in the position of knowing someone who has suffered the death of someone they love or care for? At this time we often don’t know where to start supporting those we care for. It’s normal at times like this do not know what to say. There is a tendency to fall into cliches like “You’ll get over it” and “time is a healer”. But in reality you actually don’t have to say anything profound, you can just let them know you are there. In the initial stages of grief, there is often shock and confusion. Even if there had been an awareness of illness, the actual passing of the deceased will provide a painful and sad time in this person’s life. C.S Lewis after the loss of his wife had this to say.
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.
At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.” C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
Just being there in ways to show you care is what can be most supportive. Everyday tasks after the loss of the deceased can sometimes seem difficult. Can you make a few phone calls to let others know of the situation? Practical help like cooking a meal and dropping it off can also be helpful, but also be aware that at times grief can make eating difficult. Just reminding that person that you are there for them if they need you can also be a help. All that may be needed is the companionship over a cup of tea or a glass of wine. Dropping a card in or simple gestures like an email or text can also be helpful. Being aware that they may not have the energy to respond due to the tiredness that also comes with grieving. The physical symptoms can differ but for most, they talk of exhaustion and numbness in the initial stages. Don’t avoid them as you should be aware that this is not aimed at you, grief can make our perspective very dreamlike and often we feel removed from reality.
Grieving is such an individual experience so often things that the bereaved do may confuse you. And this process can go on for years, and if the relationship was significant or complicated one it may still impact on their lives after this time. Grief is not something that can be prevented and it is a natural process we have to go through. Being kind to yourself as the supporter as well, knowing that this can be uncomfortable dealing with emotions that at times can feel foreign. And if you feel that they need help, don’t be afraid of referring them on for counselling or support from the GP.