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Tips to Help Yourself & Others in Grief

Grief is common, more common than you may even know. Situational losses and their subsequent grief reactions are part of experiencing life. In addition to situational loss due to death, some others include loss due to declining health, family illness, aging, job loss, and divorce. Loss and grief can also occur in happy situations such as in marriage, birth of a baby and retirement. In addition to obvious circumstances there are disenfranchised losses that can occur, have an impact but not get socially recognized such as the loss of a close long-time next door neighbour moving to another city.

Since situational loss is so much a part of everyday living, it is vital for well-being to know how to cope through loss. Applying the components of the 3-A Coping Framework: Acknowledge, Assess, Assist can serve this purpose. Over the years, I developed this framework so you can be empowered by monitoring yourself with awareness. Following are Assist tips for you and helping others who are grieving:

When You Are Grieving

Assist by Acknowledging and Assessing: Initially right after experiencing situational loss, it is not unusual to go into denial or shock. Although this is considered part of the grieving process, you are only able to Assist yourself once you face what is happening - Acknowledging and Assessing the loss and its impact, how it is getting absorbed into your system.

Mindfulness: Be present for yourself in the moment allowing yourself to be as you are. This may be challenging since being where you are involves experiencing the pain. Being where you are allows the pain to move through and out of your system instead of repressing. Repressed pain does not disappear but can manifest in different ways perhaps physically and can show up again at your next loss.

Take Care of Yourself: Self sustenance is important during challenging times. You may not feel like eating or exercising. Assessing this and acknowledging that paying attention to your diet and exercising and sleep, etc. assists you in the grieving process.

Comfort and Rest: Grieving has the potential to zap your energy. For that reason, it is important to assure you are comfortable and bring in more restful activities into your day. Lying down to rest is help but does not assist as rest if you are thinking about the loss or have other ruminating thoughts that do not allow you to rest. You can self monitor what is restful and relaxing for you.

Enjoyable Moments: It may be restful for you to engage in enjoyable moments. Laughter may release tension. Enjoyment for you may include watching a comical movie, having a telephone conversation or meeting up with a supportive friend, going for a massage or manicure.

Self Compassion: Going out for a massage or manicure is a way of treating yourself with kindness. It may be easy while grieving to fall into a trap of negative thinking and that can include negativity towards yourself. Assist by observing, Acknowledging and Assessing if this is happening. Self monitoring with awareness is a step towards making change.

When Others are Grieving

Grief is complex, manifesting in many shapes and colours, unique for each individual. What affects one person may not affect another at all. The intensity can vary. Showing respect and being non-judgmental is a positive approach to take in assisting the griever. Here are some other tips:

Be Genuine and Honest: Some people find it difficult to know how to be and what to say to someone who is grieving especially when the loss has just recently occurred. Observe and assess your comfort level and assist by accepting the discomfort and come from that place, perhaps saying "I am sorry for your loss" "I just do not know what to say" Often saying a few words is enough, the value comes with your ability to listen.

Listen: Listening is a skill that is especially useful when interacting with those who are grieving. You may get trapped into not knowing what to say and end up rambling then go on about your own loss experience which may not be helpful. Asking "How are you doing?" may start the conversation and you can take the role of being a listening encouraging ear.

Silence is Golden: It is not always necessary to be in conversation. It is okay to sit together or walk together in silence, showing support for the griever by just being present. Key is to comfortable to be in silence instead of being in discomfort feeling you have to say something. The ability to be in silence may take some practice.

Practical Support: To ease the grief burden, you can offer assistance with tasks such as meals, cleaning or other chores. Be specific of what you will help with eg. "I would like to bring you a meal, would a day next week work?"

Whether offering practical or emotional support to those who are grieving, the key is that you are assisting. If you are grieving, feeling alone and find that you need additional support, reach out for assistance to make your grief journey easier, whether to family, friend, professional or joining a group.


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