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Supporting someone who’s grieving: What helps?

It can be hard to know what to say or do to help someone you care about cope with a sudden loss from road trauma.

You may feel helpless in the face of their grief and worried about their wellbeing. It can be difficult to understand the different emotional, mental, social and physical reactions they experience.

Your support, however, is very important to the grieving person. This blog offers what we have found to be helpful to people who are grieving and traumatised.

What you can do for your grieving loved one

Be with them in their emotions

Express condolences and show that you care. Take your cues from them – if they don’t want to talk about their loss, don’t push it. Most people will appreciate a simple acknowledgement of their loss.

People experiencing grief can express it in many ways; sometimes ‘seesawing’ between feelings quite quickly. This is a normal process, but you can help them by being there to listen and allow them to experience their feelings in a safe, non-judgemental space with you.

Allow times of silence or reflection, as often just having another person with them in these moments can be a comfort. Listen to their stories, no matter if they repeat the same ones, as they process their loss and new circumstances.

Know that while you cannot take away their pain, you can be there for them as they find their way.

Provide practical support

Regular tasks, like cooking or chores, can lose priority or seem overwhelming following a loss. Providing practical assistance such as prepared meals, shopping, babysitting or taking children to school can help create space for your loved one to manage their emotions.

Keep in mind, it can be hard for people to ask for help or think practically when asked, “What can I do to help?” Offering clear options takes the weight off their shoulders.

If you are close to the bereaved person, you may want to volunteer to help with tasks such as notifying others, handling enquiries, organising the funeral.

Encourage healthy habits

Encourage the grieving person to look after themselves by resting, eating well, exercising, and limiting the use of alcohol or other drugs to cope. You can help the grieving person to return to normal activities like socialising, hobbies, travel, or work by starting slowly and working up to more complex or difficult activities.

Many bereaved people feel guilty about getting back to normal activities and or feel they will be judged if they are enjoying themselves. It is important to reassure the person that looking after their wellbeing does not ‘take away’ from their loss or disrespect their lost loved one.

Reach out

Encourage family and friends to access support, even if they don’t seem to be affected. If you are a health professional, provide referrals and contacts as appropriate, ensuring you advise them or obtain permission first.

Road Trauma Support WA counselling services require no referrals and can be accessed by anyone in WA.

Recognise that grief doesn’t have a convenient end point. For many it continues to be experienced over weeks, months, years, a lifetime.

Look after yourself

Supporting someone who has experienced a traumatic loss can take a toll on you. Make sure that you take time out and reach out to other supportive people in your life.

You might also find it useful to talk to a mental health professional or relevant organisation such as Road Trauma Support WA, if you’re concerned about yourself or the person you are helping.

Need more information or support? 

At Road Trauma Support WA, we provide free information, support, and counselling to anyone who has been affected by a road crash in Western Australia.  

We support those who have been involved in and/or injured in a road crash, their families, friends, and carers, those who have witnessed a crash or are first on the scene, first responders and those who may have caused a road crash to occur. 

For more information or to book an appointment

Find out more about our services or download free support resources below.

To book a free appointment, call us on (08) 6166 7688 or 1300 004 814 (free call) or email [email protected].

We strive to be culturally sensitive as we represent the Western Australian community in our imagery.

Please be advised that our website or resources may contain images, videos, or voices of people who have since passed away.

If any material causes concern, please contact us on (08) 6166 7688.

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