Listening to grieving people is the most important thing you can do. Listen in a non-judging way, and allow them to tell their stories over and over if they need to.
Share your memories of the loved one, too. Reflect on the feelings they are experiencing – but as you share, be careful not to start one-upping their feelings, or comparing your loss to theirs. And don’t say “I know exactly how you feel.” It’s usually much more helpful to say something along the lines of “I can’t imagine what you must be feeling right now,” because most grieving people feel like no one else could know what they are experiencing.
Each person recovers from grief at his or her own pace. Some can recover quickly, while others can take a full year or more (this will also depend on the severity of the loss). Be careful not to impose a time limit or tell people to get over it and move on – feeling that they’ve grieved too long can cause people to suppress their feelings, and slow or stop the healing process.
Remember that there’s no definitive way to experience grief. Understand that the grieving person will always feel the loss, but that he or she will learn to live with it over time.
It may sound strange to talk about celebrating, but it can help grieving people heal. Help them celebrate the life of the loved one they’ve lost. Help them develop rituals they need to get through the difficult early stages of the grieving process.
Sometimes grieving people can go to extremes, if you notice signs of suicidal behavior or fear they may harm themselves or others, refer them to a mental health professional.
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