Grieving people, generally speaking, need someone to listen to them. Access to care, encouragement and support will help them re-establish their lives, after their loss. Some of their most important needs include:
- to feel accompanied, supported or cared for, without judgement;
- to express their feelings safely;
- to tell their stories, often repeatedly;
- to explore their new reality and move towards re-establishment of their life without their loved one; and
- to make meaning from their grief and go on living fruitfully, as they wish.
We can help by:
- understanding that grief is a normal and necessary part of life, and each individual will need to find their own pathway in their own time;
- being there knowing that we cannot fix grief but just being around may help;
- being sensitive about the grieving person having suffered a deep loss, which we may not recognise and which we will certainly perceive differently to them. We can encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings, in a safe space, assuring confidentiality;
- being humane, we need to allow the grieving person to openly express all their feelings without judging them. Nobody in grief should have to justify her or his feelings;
- being ready to listen when the story is told over and over again. Talking about the deceased is a vital step towards recovery. The enormity of the loss cannot be comprehended all at once but is realised gradually;
- being person with the grieving person as mourning the loss of a loved one can continue for a very long time. There is no finish line; and
- being prepared by familiarise yourself with and understanding the wide range of ways in which grief can manifest. Reassurance that such manifestations are natural can prevent the grieving person from feeling overwhelmed and that there’s something wrong with them.
Allow the bereaved person to tell their story, over and over again. Whilst talking like this, to some, may seem morbid or cruel and may trigger expressions of emotion, it is a necessary part of navigating the grief process encouraging the bereaved person to begin to come to terms with the irreversibility of the loss.