Holidays can be a particularly painful time if you have lost a loved one recently. Bereavement is always hard, but especially during the first anniversaries of birthdays, holidays and other special occasions. Sonja Smith from Sonja Smith Funerals has some advice to offer if you find yourself in this situation.

Grief Is Different For Each Person

Each person mourns in a different way, so it can be hard to know how to console someone who is grieving. Depending on how close you are to the person will probably influence your level of involvement and support with them. For example, you may want to invite them to spend the holidays with you and your family, or you may just want to invite them to a lunch. Whatever you decide to do to assist them, allow them to be flexible in their grief. Don’t push them for a commitment to anything in the early stages of grief. They may, after they’ve accepted the invitation, feel that they are simply not up to joining you – or may initially decline your invitation and then regret their decision. It is impossible for either them or you to foresee how they will feel even a week from today.

Grief Is A Process

Grieving is a gradual process, and while it may seem that you aren’t helping, it is important to remember that simply by you being there will make a difference. Remember that there is nothing you can do or say to take their pain away or make the grief any less. You just need to be present for moral support and to offer comfort in the knowledge that better days will come again.

Mention The Deceased By Name

When you talk to the bereaved, try to mention the name of the deceased. It may bring on tears initially, but it’s important that the individuality of the deceased is not removed from the grieving process. If in doubt, you can always ask the bereaved how they are feeling today and whether they want to talk.

Active Listening Is Vital

Even though your loved one may repeat the same story about the deceased time and time again, listen patiently, since this is a way for them to move past some of the grief, and possible trauma, that they are feeling. Try to listen actively, without giving advice. Most times, the bereaved just want to talk and don’t particularly want advice – unless they ask you for it.

Offer Suggestions Of Practical Help

Listening is not the only way you can offer your support. There may be specific tasks that your loved one just feels too overwhelmed to manage on their own. You could offer to take some of the pressure off them by completing the task for them. Sometimes, it is better not to ask what you can do to help but to make a concrete suggestion if the bereaved person is reluctant to ask for help. There are many ways for you to help. Here are a few suggestions;

  • Grocery shopping.
  • Assistance with funeral arrangements.
  • Providing meals for the bereaved family.
  • Helping with the children or pets, if there are any.
  • Assisting with housework.
  • Taking them out for a bit.

Be Consistent In Your Support

When supporting your loved one, always try to be consistent so that they know that you will be around for as long as they need. This is especially important after the funeral when visits and condolences subside. The bereaved will start to feel the full impact of the loss of their loved one.

Remember Special Occasions

Take note of any special birthdays and anniversaries in their life and show them some extra attention during these times. These once-special dates can rekindle grief, especially during the grieving year of firsts. Remembering these occasions will contribute greatly in helping your loved one overcome their grief.

Take Note Of Extended Grief

As essential as it is to support your loved one through their mourning, you need to carefully watch out for any signs of them falling into a depression. This is usually recognised if their grief doesn’t fade after some time or worsens. Other symptoms of depression which you can be aware of include;

  • Their inability to enjoy life or the usual things that they used to do.
  • Their inability to cope with their daily life or neglecting themselves.
  • Extreme feelings of hopelessness, anger or sadness and even thoughts of death.
  • Talks about suicide.

In such cases, you will need to inform your loved one, as tactfully as you can, about your concerns and that you feel they should seek professional help. It will be a difficult undertaking for you, but a necessary one.

What Not To Do

We have discussed what you can do to assist someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one, but there are also several behaviours that you should avoid, despite your best intentions.

  • Avoid the usual platitudes and clichés of telling the bereaved things that will only minimise their emotions.
  • Don’t tell them that you know how they feel – unless you really do.
  • Avoid judging their behaviour, their grief or how they are looking.

There is no rule book for grief, nor is there a timeline for how long a person should grieve. Some people may show their grief through anger, sadness or bitterness, while others may seem outwardly fine. Personalities and support systems all have a role to play. Patience and compassion are most needed during these times.

The Sonja Smith Funeral Group  has a number of grief resources which you can use to assist you to provide adequate support to your loved ones in their time of grief.

Sonja Smith offers funerals with care, compassion and dignity. They offer many services from arranging a funeral, bringing the deceased into their care, burials or cremations, personalised funerals, grief support and even assistance with funeral plans. They have branches located across Gauteng.

For assistance with arranging a funeral or funeral plans, please contact them by visiting their website for details.