7 Ways to Help Someone Through Grief of Trauma
Everyone goes through a rough season in their life and sometimes it can be nearly unbearable. As a friend or family member it can often be stressful trying to figure out what to do in order to help when you feel so helpless. When my fiancé passed away at the age of thirty, I learned some things that are helpful and also things that are not. If you know someone who is struggling to cope with grief or perhaps a traumatic event, here are some suggestions i would like to share with you that might help you navigate your role as a support person.
1. If you don’t know what to say – SAY NOTHING– The worst thing people can do is say something meaningless or hurtful. Most people mean well but by saying things like, “well at least they are in a better place”, or, “my friend went through the same thing as you and she is getting through it by being positive”, or, “have you tried (insert suggestion here), it might help you feel better”.
When someone you know is struggling, they don’t want you to fix them. They want you to be there for them. When you are scrambling to find the words because you don’t know what to say, say this – “I honestly don’t know what to say,” or “this must be so hard for you, I don’t know what to say.”
2. Meet people where they are at–
“The best way to get through something is by going through it.”
When someone is suffering it is so important for them to learn how to cope with each emotion. Yes, there is a time and a place for medication and other therapies, but in many cases, all it takes is time. When we constantly suppress our emotions and our negative experiences we are doing nothing for our recovery. If you really want to help someone who is struggling to cope, help them move through each ugly moment. Don’t try to fix the moment, just simply help them move through it. It won’t be comfortable and you will probably hate it while it’s happening, but once it’s over; you will both be stronger because of it.
3. Don’t try to remove their pain by distraction– by asking someone to do things to take their mind off of whatever they are struggling with, is the last thing that is going to help them. In some life circumstances, sure this might help, but when someone is really having a hard time coping with grief or trauma, distractions WILL NOT work. Their mind cannot be distracted that easily and by trying to distract them, all we are doing is suppressing the very thing they should be trying to work through. Again, there is always a time and a place for medications and different therapies if someone’s experiencing prolonged grief or trauma but who gets to decide what is prolonged? If someone is relatively safe and they aren’t using self-harm as a coping mechanism, what is wrong with allowing them to take the time they need without labeling it as abnormal or complicated.
4. Don’t ask – just DO – So often people say the words, “let me know if you need anything”. When someone is in the midst of grief or trauma, they have no idea what they need. If you want to help, just do something. Little things like helping clean their home, or offering to transport their kids to school can mean so much to someone. Most people aren’t going to refuse pre-made dinners but likely no one will ask for them either. The worst someone can say is “no thank you” and in some cases they may get upset but the reality is, most will be so thankful that you went out of your way to help without putting pressure on them to know what it is they need. The littlest things can mean so much.
5. If they are grieving the loss of a loved one – Speak their name – If someone you know is grieving the loss of someone they love, never be afraid to talk about the person who has died. So often people say things like, “well I don’t want to bring it up because it will just remind them of their loss.” YOU will not remind them of their loss, they already know and they think about it often. There is nothing more comforting than hearing someone remember your loved one and a special memory is like music to the ears of those who are grieving.
6. Check in – How many times have we seen on the news that another celebrity has taken their own life. How many times is that celebrity described as so happy and bubbly and enthusiastic about life? Always check in on those who are openly suffering, but also on those who may appear like they have it all together. Never be afraid to ask the difficult question, “are you thinking about suicide?” This isn’t easy, but you may ask in the exact moment someone feels like opening up.
7. Be patient and stay in touch– Always be patient. Those who are going through grief or trauma already likely feel like a burden. Be patient and allow them to take as much time as they need to work through whatever it is they need to work through. Sometimes medications and traditional therapies work for people and may be just what they need but some people just don’t feel comfortable with those options. People will go through their grief and trauma in a way that feels right for them and even though we don’t always agree with another person’s choices, does not mean they are always wrong.
So often people are left behind as people become annoyed or frustrated when someone isn’t “getting over” their experience. When you are suffering, there is nothing you appreciate more than those who stick by you during the good, the bad and the ugly.
If you have experienced grief, trauma, or PTSD and have examples or stories of how someone helped you, I would love to hear about it.
Meg Roberts is an experienced life coach in Calgary offering grief support and life coaching. As a Grief Recovery Method specialist and as someone who has overcome her share of grief, Meg is an empathetic coach with a unique perspective on love and life. Book a Free Consultation with Meg to get started on the road to healing and recovery.