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How to Support a Loved One Through the Different Forms of Grief

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As we said goodbye to my mother-in-law a year ago in October, it was impressed on me just how differently everyone grieves. How each individual has their own way of grieving and that their “own way” is just fine.

There is the person for whom the emotions come and go. One minute they are crying, the next they are laughing. Some people are the get it done type people. They start processing their grief by working and helping others; that is how I tend to work. Only after everything is said and done and I’ve made sure everything else is all right, then can I allow myself to fully process my grief.

Yet another person can be so overcome with grief they cannot function. Then there are people like my son who outwardly don’t look like they are experiencing any grief at all. In the middle of your grief, or theirs, it can look to you like someone isn’t grieving enough, or someone is too involved with grief.

But this is the time to take a step back.

I learned in the Death, Dying and Bereavement class I took earlier this year that it is perfectly normal to have difficulty functioning for at least a year after a great loss. That a person’s grief journey is highly individual and doesn’t follow any set pattern. Sorry Elizabeth Kubler-Ross fans, five stages of grief isn’t how this works.

Is there someone in your life who is grieving right now? Ask them how you can support them. If they come back with a non answer, maybe:

  • Pray for them and their journey.
  • Listen to them if they want to talk.
  • Don’t stand in judgement.
  • Find ways to help them smile, to remind them that there are still bright spots in this world where everything has gone dim.
  • Above all, love them.

None of us are going to make it out of this life without experiencing grief. Let’s walk together in this and help bear each other’s burdens!

A version of this story originally appeared on

Photo credit: kzenon/Getty Images

Originally published: November 22, 2019
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