5 Women on How They Support Loved Ones Experiencing Loss
When someone we care about experiences a loss, it’s natural to want to provide support. But, in those moments, it can be difficult to find the right words to say or to know what our loved one needs most. CircleAround asked five women how they’ve helped a loved one experiencing a great loss. Here’s what they had to say.
Randi Levin, a transitional life strategist from New Jersey, likes to use the phrase, “I am holding space for you.” In her experience, this phrase is a simple and eloquent way to tell someone that you are listening without judgment or agenda.
“Holding space means you are open to conversations and spending time with them, without a preconceived notion of what that time will be, and without trying to ‘fix’ them,” she adds. “This offers a natural healing space, building your bond with someone in a memorable and meaningful way.”
"I am holding space for you."
Jana Geyer, a patient care assistant in New York, tells CircleAround that it’s important to avoid telling a grieving person that they will simply move on. “I am a breast cancer survivor that has dealt with not only mourning loss regarding myself but caring for a close friend that experienced extreme loss of her husband,” she says.
Geyer knows that it’s possible for people to continue to mourn their loss no matter how much time has passed. She suggests saying, “I support you and pray you move forward.” She also suggests offering yourself as a pillar for the good and bad times that are to come.
"I support you and pray you move forward."
Even if you have the perfect words of comfort, your friend may need more than just verbal support. “If you have a friend who has experienced loss recently, most words will just go in one ear and out the other, '' says Megan Cavanaugh, owner of Done Right Pest Solutions. Her mother and grandfather passed away before she was 10 years old, and four of her father’s nine siblings have passed away since then.
Cavanaugh tells CircleAround that what friends really need is for you to just be there. “Just show up. Actions always speak louder than words. Friends need to know that you are going to help carry the burdens that they are feeling, most simply by just hugging them as they cry.”
"Just show up. Actions always speak louder than words."
Patricia Love, the author of Seen and (Un) Heard, agrees with the proactive approach. “During this time, your friend will go through several emotions, even though they say they want to be left alone. They don’t want to be a bother, but in reality, they want and need love. Give them space, but be there, so they never feel alone.”
Don’t be offended if someone doesn’t respond to your sympathy the way you hope they will. Chelsea Austin, a writer, speaker, and life coach, is the daughter of two gay men and was extremely close to her aunt, who was a surrogate for her parents. “When my auntie passed away at 56 from lung cancer, I thought my heart might just break into a million pieces,” she tells CircleAround. “There is no one set way to get through loss and grief, and if someone doesn’t tell you that they lost someone, or that they are grieving a loss, don’t take that personally.”
“It doesn’t mean you aren’t part of their inner circle,” she adds, “It just means they need to take care of themselves right now. Broadcasting their grief maybe isn’t what they want to do, and it’s important to remember that someone else’s grief is not about you.”
Acknowledging your friend’s feelings, setting aside time for them, and keeping their grief in perspective, are just some ways women around the world have helped their own networks through the grieving process. The most important thing to keep in mind is that people process grief differently and no two experiences are the same. Supporting a friend during a period of loss will create a powerful connection, however you decide to help.