6 ideas to keep in mind when accompanying a person in mourning
Helping someone who is grieving can do great good, but it is not easy if it is done without guidelines.
According to William Worden, a member of the American Psychological Association, bereavement is "the experience of a person who has lost a loved one" (Worden, 2004). It has other meanings, since we can go through a grieving process also when we lose a partner, a job or our health. But the most common definition is the one that refers to the death of someone important to us..
Coping with grief takes time and involves intense emotions in the bereaved. But also for those around them. Accompanying the bereavement process is not an easy task.because each person faces the losses in a different way.
Key ideas on the accompaniment of bereaved persons
On many occasions, doubts arise as to whether one is being helpful or whether more could be done for the bereaved family member or friend.. Although there are no recipes, and it is always best to ask the person directly what he or she needs, there are some aspects that we can take into account in the task of accompanying those suffering from psychological grief.
1. The importance of our gaze
There are many ways of approaching someone who is grievingFrom a descriptive and analytical perspective, from the fear of saying or doing something inappropriate, from the position of a counselor? In order to help someone who is going through a grief we have to be willing to experience and share with that person any emotion, sensation or belief that appears, without judgments, theories or recommendations.
Looking at the other person is more than seeing him or her. It has to do with approaching it with curiosity, empathy and respect.. This is the only way to make it easier for the bereaved person to get in touch with his or her emotions and put words to what is happening to him or her. Only in this way will he/she feel listened to and safe.
2. The value of being there
Sometimes we ask ourselves over and over again what to do and what to say to alleviate the suffering of those we love. It is worth asking ourselves whether we are giving more importance to doing than to being there.. It may be that others just need us to be present and available.
But... what does it mean to be there? Being there involves providing emotional and physical support. It requires us to be able to contain, hold and comfort when emotions arise. But it also requires us to be able to ask for more pragmatic aspects, without anticipating and without interfering in our loved one's routine and way of coping..
3. Our role as companions
Accompanying a mourner is not an easy task. It is an act of love, in which we observe the suffering of another person and accept to be involved in it so that he or she does not go through it alone. we observe the suffering of another person and we accept to be involved in it so that he/she does not go through it alone..
It is essential to remember that this process belongs only to the mourner, although the companion acts as a catalyst, that is, he/she favors the progress of the mourning without having a leading role.
In order to fulfill this role, the importance of allowing emotional expression and providing instrumental help in specific aspects of daily life has already been described. Other ways to help may be: to encourage memories of the deceased (thus preventing it from becoming a taboo subject), to instill hope and to help the bereaved to make decisions on a daily basis and to acquire, at their own pace, an active position as the protagonist of their life.
4. What is at stake for the bereaved: emptiness, oblivion, identity and meaning
The person who has just lost a loved one is faced with an extreme situation in which he or she may suffer a crisis of values and even identity.. It should be noted that not all people experience loss with this intensity, being more likely after traumatic or unexpected deaths.
The person who survives the deceased has to accept the death of a loved one and learn to manage the anguish of the loss. In many aspects, even in daily life, a feeling of emptiness may appear, in relation to those tasks or activities that the deceased was in charge of or shared with him/her.
In addition, there is a fear of forgetting, and the mourner needs to reformulate the meaning of the memory and move from a sensory memory to a sensory one. from a sensory memory to one that projects the mark of the loved one in the future and gives meaning to his/her days. and that gives meaning to his/her days.
5. The paradoxes of the encounter
Just as we need to share our experiences with others in order to move through them, sometimes we also need our own space. Bereaved persons may experience contradictions in relation to their desire to be isolated and their desire, which is not incompatible, to be accompanied. It is important to frame these situations within the context of grief, without taking them personally.
6. One's own limits
Last but not least, it is necessary to talk about the needs of the companion. Involving ourselves in the grief of the other person can remove unresolved aspects of ourselves or can be very emotionally draining. or be very emotionally draining. For this reason, it is important to stay connected with oneself and to know how to stop, clear oneself and manage the level of involvement.
In case of detecting that there are aspects that exceed what is considered normal grief (or what we feel we are capable of managing) it is advisable to ask for help from the appropriate professionals.
- Viktor E. Frankl Association. (2014). Grief and meaning: Meaning and value in loss. Barcelona, Spain: Sello Editorial. - Devine, M. (2019, February 4). How to help a grieving friend - Refuge In Grief. Retrieved December 22, 2019, from https://www.refugeingrief.com/helper-overview/ - Worden, J. W. (2004). The treatment of grief: psychological counseling and therapy. (2nd ed.). Barcelona, Spain: Paidós.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)