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What Helps in Grief

Understanding that grief is unique to each individual and that it’s how the event impacts us - not the event itself, we can appreciate that grief has no timetable or specific set of practices. It’s a journey… a process of adjustment and transition. Interestingly, people who are grieving often develop strength and resilience they never realised they had or were capable of and find very creative ways of coping with their new reality.

A quote that rings very true in situations where a group of people have experienced the same loss such as death of a loved one or other forms of loss such as collective redundancy from a large employer is:

We are all in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat

With permission from BarbaraKelley.com

The following familiar sayings that we’ve probably all heard or said ourselves at some point can be frustrating to someone grieving loss as their new found reality is very unique to them and their personal circumstances:

“I know how you feel”

“I completely understand what you’re going through”

“We’re all in the same boat”

If you take time to study the picture of the ships you will notice that although they are in the same storm, the individual circumstances (boats) are very different:

  • Ships/Boats/Submarines/Canoes
  • Size
  • Motor/No Motor/Paddles
  • Sinking/Keeping Above Water

What Helps Grieving Adults:

  • Looking after your physical health, diet, sleep hygiene, and exercise.
  • Taking the learning out of the situation you find yourself in.
  • Memory making (finding ways to remember a deceased loved one and maintain a connection with them.
  • Giving grief time and space whilst also allowing time for life to go on (this may understandably take some time but can encourage processing the grief and healing.
  • Letting feelings bubble through to the surface and trying not to supress them.
  • Developing your own helpful coping mechanisms and strategies that work for you.

What Helps Grieving Children and Young People:

Every child and young person is unique and will grieve loss in their own way, whether it is caused by the death of someone very important to them, a family pet or another form of loss.

Child Bereavement UK suggest the following considerations for grieving children that may help:

  • Clear, honest and age-appropriate information.
  • Reassurance that they are not to blame and that different feelings are OK.
  • Normal routines and a clear demonstration that important adults are there for them.
  • Time to talk about what has happened, ask questions and build memories.
  • Being listened to and given time to grieve in their own way.

Other Things We Can do to Help Those Who Are Grieving:

This can feel difficult at times as it’s often a sensitive situation and we can become worried of saying or doing the wrong thing.  However, below are some examples that people who have experienced grief shared can help:

  • Express condolences and sympathy
  • Ask them about the circumstances of the loss
  • Check in on them rather than waiting for them to reach out
  • Make plans to get together
  • Give hugs when they are in pain
  • Avoid saying the person should be "strong"
  • Avoid minimising by suggesting it is "for the best"

Other Treatments for Grief:

Medication and therapy are also common methods of treating grief in adults. Initially when visiting a GP, your doctor may prescribe medications to help you function better on a day to day basis which may include sedatives, antidepressants, something to help you sleep or anti-anxiety medications.

Whilst medication can often be a helpful intervention, it is also worth noting that it can also ‘numb’ feelings which are needed to move through the grief journey and we can sometimes get emotionally ‘stuck’ if medication is used for more than an initial period of time.

For children and young people medication is unlikely to be offered with more focus on encouraging coping strategies, other supports and talking therapy where relevant.

Counselling, bereavement support groups, individual or group therapy (online or in person) can be effective in helping you or someone you support work through unresolved grief.

If grief is becoming overwhelming for you, someone you work with or a child you support, it is always recommended to seek medical advice.  In the first instance, this is usually a GP.

References:

Link to useful worksheets: https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheets/grief/none

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