You’re Not Alone, Grief Gets Local

You’re Not Alone, Grief Gets Local

“Understand that each person responds differently, and those responses may reflect the cultural or family traditions unique to them.”

Grief is typically associated with an emotional response to loss or life changes, but grief can also have physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, cultural and spiritual affects. The best way to support a loved one who is grieving is to be fully present and accepting of their grieving process; grief looks different for everyone.

HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital Hospice Bereavement Coordinator, Wendy Deering says what most people need after a loss is time, and someone who can truly listen, acknowledge their feeling, run errands or simply offer comfort.

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), it is important to remember there is no right or wrong way to grieve. However, there are general guidelines for those supporting a friend or loved one who has endured a loss or challenge.

“It’s important you do not impose your ideas, beliefs or expectations on someone else, no matter how much you think it will help,” says Deering. “Understand that each person responds differently, and those responses may reflect the cultural or family traditions unique to them.”

HSHS, following guidance from NHPCO, offers the following ways to support someone who is grieving:

  • Acknowledge that life won’t feel the same. When they are ready, help your friend or family member to renew interest in past activities and hobbies, or to discover new areas of interest. Offer specific suggestions such as, “Let’s go to the museum on Saturday to see the new exhibit,” but be completely accepting if your offer is declined.
  • Be specific in your willingness to help. Offer to help with chores such as childcare or meals.
  • Identify committed friends who might be willing to help with specific tasks on a regular basis. Performing tasks such as picking up the kids from school, grocery shopping or refilling prescriptions can reduce stress and provide comfort. 
  • Check on your friend or relative as time passes. Your friend or family member will need your support and presence in the weeks and months to come after others have retreated. Periodic check-ins can be helpful through the first two years after death or big life changes.
  • Be sensitive to holidays and special occasions. For someone grieving a death, certain days may be more difficult and can magnify the sense of loss, such as anniversaries and birthdays. Some people may want to be with family and friends, while others may wish to avoid traditions and try something new. Extend an invitation to someone who might otherwise spend time alone during these occasions and recognize they may or may not accept your offer. 

There are multiple community resources available to help those who are grieving a loss, including the Chippewa County Grief Education Guidance Team, which provides an ongoing grief support group. Meetings are held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the St. Clare Conference Room on the first floor of HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital. For more information, please call Wendy Deering at (715) 717-7581.

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