Each of us responds to loss and sadness differently, but here are a few Body Aware Grieving tips to consider while supporting a person who is in mourning.
1. It can be difficult to concentrate when emotions are very strong; small decisions and easy tasks take much more energy and focus to accomplish. Encourage them to avoid scheduling too many challenging activities.
2. Their mood may change quickly and repeatedly. Bursts of cheerful behavior may come through during a generally stressful or sorrowful time. Pay attention to shifts in their attitude and try to allow them to ‘lead’ the tone of your visit.
3. Physical senses can become either shut down or overstimulated. Many environments can seem too loud, crowded, bright or fast moving, and it can be easy to become overwhelmed. Stay in locations where you can influence as many factors as possible.
4. A person in grief or shock may not know what type of help to request; their current situation may be very unfamiliar to them. Try to offer examples of specific ways you are willing to contribute (bringing food, driving, babysitting, making phone calls).
5. For a recent death supporters should take over as many responsibilities being “host” as possible (organizing details for transportation, greeting guests, food, facility rental or preparation etc.); this is especially true for funerals and memorials.
6. Be aware of “chatting” too much, because a person in deep grief will have a hard time listening. Even if they have asked about your day or recent news, try to keep your response simple.
7. Silence can be golden; even a few minutes of shared quiet can be very bonding and consoling, especially while in a group. Suggest a period of silence and see if they are attracted to that idea.
8. Not sure what to say? Maybe just put your hand on their shoulder for a few minutes.
10. Trying to “cheer someone up” may not be welcome. If they are allowed to experience their natural sadness for a while, they will likely become ready to smile, laugh and be “upbeat” at their own pace. Many people just need some friends with whom they do not feel pressured to mask their true feelings.
Margo Rose has been a fitness trainer for over 15 years and specializes in practical ways to manage loss, stress or disappointment. Margo Rose’s book, Body Aware Grieving, A Fitness Trainer’s Guide to Caring for Your Health During Sad Times is available on Amazon.