Understanding The Grief of a Bereaved Person During COVID

Candles in glass holderEver since the coronavirus broke out, the world has seen a staggering number of deaths, and although we are seeing reduced amounts of deaths, the death toll continues to rise. This means that people worldwide are continuing to lose loved ones.

Bearing the Death of a Dear One

Losing a person close to you is unquestionably the most agonizing experience that everyone has to go through at some point in time. Regardless of how healthily a person leads their life, they will see the final end, leaving behind mourners grieving over the irreplaceable loss. Despite being a universal truth, death remains an out-of-bounds subject that mustn’t be mentioned in gatherings unless at a funeral. This shying away from such an inevitable reality has made people quite insensitive (though inadvertently) and awkward when it comes to dealing with someone’s death and their survivors. 

Because we don’t like to discuss death and processing the loss of a loved one, when someone actually dies in our circles, we are often tongue-tied and unaware of the right/appropriate words to say to the grieving family. Consequently, many of us end up saying insensitive platitudes, such as you have to move on, or you need to stay strong.

The mentioned phrases may seem harmless, but they bear explosive impact for those in mourning. A large majority of people don’t even realize that unless they have experienced the pain of losing someone close to themselves. That’s the truth about grief. You don’t understand it unless it’s yours. And that’s okay; not knowing what to say to someone in mourning is fine; in fact, it’s far better than saying something pointless and unintentionally hurtful. 

If you want to understand how to help someone dealing with the loss of a loved one, here is a detailed guide on comprehending the trauma of bereavement. 

Grief is Personal, Like One’s Life- REMEMBER THAT!

The most fundamental thing when wanting to help a grieving person is realizing and accepting that you are an outsider of their pain; you CANNOT begin to understand what they are going through. So, don’t even try to come off as someone who knows what grief is unless, of course, you have been through it yourself. But even then, we would suggest keeping your experience to yourself because, as mentioned above, grief is personal. Don’t tell your story until you are asked for it. Let the other person deal with their emotions and accept the reality in their way.

Be Present But Don’t Be Intrusive

Whenever we hear about a death in our circle, we immediately feel sympathetic and wish to show our concern for the bereaved party. And more often than not, we do that by getting in their faces and dictating them on how they should act. For instance, we tell them to control themselves and not to cry much because that’s not what the deceased would want, or we tear apart two members of the mourning family when they hug to cry.

 That’s not to say that any of our actions are ill-intended; if anything, they come from a place of love and care. But what we don’t realize is that forcing a mourner to stop crying or telling them to eat when they want to be left alone is not helpful. It’s infuriating.

You want to show concern, just be present! Don’t get overbearing and intrusive because you care for the grieving person’s wellbeing so much. If you wish to help, tell them you are there for them in whatever they need, whenever they need it. And if they ask you to leave them alone, do THAT! Let them decide what they want. You may think that doing so is not the right thing, but that’s actually the best you can do.

Try to Avoid these Platitudes

Stay strong
This shall pass
You are so strong; it’ll be okay
You will get through this
You need to move on
You have to remain strong for your family
They (the deceased member) would want to see you happy
They are in a better place
They are not in pain anymore

That doesn’t mean don’t use them, but use common sense and apply these words at an appropriate time.  As noted above, you cannot understand grief until it’s your own, unless it’s your front row at the funeral. Naturally, you cannot (even with all your sincerity and love for the bereaved family) comprehend the magnitude of trauma the other person is going through. So, when you don’t know what it’s like to lose a loved one, how can you say empty words whose impact you cannot fathom? Therefore, DON’T throw those mundane phrases you hear people using at funerals to comfort someone in mourning.

If you want to show concern, you don’t need to use words. Sometimes just being physically present and not speaking can do more for someone in pain than saying thoughtless sentences that won’t make much difference.

Additionally, with your presence noted, see if there is something you can do for them without asking. For example, the person grieving says “I don’t know what’s taking so long for my daughter to come here”. You might want to take it on yourself to make some calls to find out where she is and relay that message to your friend/relative.

What to Say to Someone in Mourning

If you found out someone you genuinely care about lost a dear one to the coronavirus or to any other fatal cause for that matter and you want to comfort them, here’s what you need to do.

Leave them a message telling them that you are terribly sorry for their loss and you are here for them should they need anything. You should also mention that you do not understand their suffering, but you want to help them in any way possible.

And once you have expressed your wish of doing something for the grieving party, don’t bug them by repeatedly asking if there’s anything you can do. Let them come to you. When they go back to work or resume classes, leave a message saying that you hope they have a fantastic day or that you are sending lots of positive vibes their way.

Simply put, only express your sincere wishes by sending positive messages, don’t add any empty words or dictations in your texts.

You can also supply them with COVID bereavement groups. Something most people won’t think about.

The Bottom Line

If you are not one of the bereaved, don’t act like you know how that feels or try to be ‘helpful’ by telling them to move on! The most thoughtful thing you can do for a grieving family is just letting them know that you’re here for them and give them all the time in the world to heal and move forward with the unfillable void in their hearts.

One More Thing

As distasteful as this may sound, we want to emphasize the following, because it is all too common. When you do speak to a person who just lost a loved one, do not, under any circumstances talk about inheritance or what money they have left.