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Support 101: Things That Aren’t Helpful to Grieving Loved Ones
It seems to always be the case that whenever a loved one suffers a loss, we never know what to say. We try our best to be helpful but we end up saying or doing things that literally make us want to go crawl in a hole. For our senior loved ones, we hate to see them in pain so we try to make it stop. If your senior loved one has recently lost a spouse, close relative or friend,
Jamhuri Healthcare Services explains a few things you should avoid saying or doing to help the grieving process rather than hurt it.
Watch What You Say
While you mean well when you are offering words of support and comfort to your loved one, sometimes you aren’t sure if you are saying the right thing and instead default to canned phrases that don’t help at all. One of the most common is, “It gets better.” Grief doesn’t have a timeline, and putting one on it can make your loved one feel like they need to hurry and rush. Just like every death is different, everyone’s grief journey is different too. While time does dull the pain, the dull ache will likely remain. Rather than pressure them, reiterate that you’ll be there for them forever, not just while they are mourning. If your senior loved one has never lived alone or has medical issues, they’ll be leaning on you more than ever and it will be a comfort to know that you will be there for them if and when they call on you.
Rather than trying to ease the pain by saying “I understand” or “They are in a better place,” show silent support by cooking dinner, cleaning up the house, or sitting with them and letting them direct the narrative or lack of. If your loved one wants to talk, then listen. If they prefer to sit in silence, then be their shoulder to cry on. The goal should be to serve your loved one and be what they need you to be in that moment whether it is a friend, funeral arranger, dog walker, or dinner partner. Your loved one may even need you to help reach out to former classmates and old friends of their deceased partner to let them know about the funeral service. You can easily help your loved one connect when you use online directories specific to location.
Don’t Hesitate to Find Additional Support … If They Want It
Your loved one has a lot to weather at this time, and it’s possible they need additional support beyond what you can provide. Without being overbearing, offer to help them access what they need. If it’s healthcare services, Jamhuri Healthcare Services offers private home care services, and our qualified nurses can assist your loved one in ways you may not be able to.
In addition to nursing care, your loved one may also need help with home maintenance that you can’t handle. This could be roof or window repairs, or perhaps they need help accessing transportation when you’re unavailable. Offer to research local service providers, and provide a list of contractors that you’ve helped to vet so your loved one knows they’re working with trustworthy companies.
Don’t Stop the Process
It is a natural reaction to grab the tissues and shush someone when we see the tears falling, but crying is a natural part of the grieving process. In fact, emotional tears help rid the body of stress hormones, as the tears contain hormones and toxins that build up due to stress. In addition, crying stimulates the production of feel-good endorphins, which is why sometimes you feel better after a “good cry.” While you might feel uncomfortable watching your loved one cry, don’t let it show, as it can make them feel as if they need to bottle up their feelings inside for your sake. Grieving takes a toll on energy levels, so your loved one may appreciate help and support such as going with them to sign the death certificate or making sure all the funeral arrangements are in order.
Keep in mind that there comes a certain point when grief crosses the line from healthy to dangerous. Prolonged grief can trigger anxiety attacks, depression, and substance abuse. Your loved one may feel alone and disconnected from others. Avoid treating grief as an illness, as there is no cure for death and loss. Instead, encourage your loved one to practice self-care by eating nutritious meals, getting adequate sleep, exercising, and coping with grief in positive ways such as yoga, meditation, painting, or journaling.
You’re only human, and you’ll find that you will still struggle with the right words and actions. Make a mental note of things you should avoid, but ultimately your focus should be on making your senior loved one as comfortable as possible as they learn to navigate life without their spouse.
Author: Holli Richardson