Grief is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and most dreaded feelings. It indicates a loss of something or someone important in our lives. Lutheran Congregational Services’ grief counselor, Sylvia Havlish, helps people navigate their grief. In addition to one-on-one counseling, Sylvia leads a six-week program called Journeys Through Grief.

If you know someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one, you can play an important role in providing comfort and leading them to a place of hope. Here are Sylvia’s tips on how to help:

  1. Be there for them, don’t avoid them. Let them know that you are willing to listen or just sit in silence with them. Each person will process loss in their own way, and while some will want to talk about their loss, others may feel too overwhelmed to talk about it.’
  2. Let them talk about their pain and emotions. When they do, empathize and comfort them. Keep in mind that you don’t need to have answers and it’s not your role to make it all better by appeasing them. And they especially don’t need your judgement or advice.
  3. It’s OK if you’re not sure what to say. Just be open and honest in your communication and let them know that you care.
  4. Offer to help. Do they need meals prepared, pets attended to, laundry washed?
  5. Weeks, months and even years following the loss, never assume that someone no longer grieves. The pain may lessen, but the grief is still there. They may be uncomfortable to bring it up as time passes, so gently let them know you care and it’s still OK grieve.

The key to helping is to reassure them the feeling of despair doesn’t last forever, and that they are loved. Be patient and compassionate as you walk along with them, holding them through their pain.

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