A Safe Haven for Someone Who’s Grieving

How do you give space to someone who is grieving?

What does it mean to ‘hold space’? Holding space for someone who is in emotional pain is a concept that many may not be familiar with.

To put it in simple terms, holding space means taking the initiative to be empathic to a person’s situation and giving them the time they need to pour out their feelings, voice out anger, hurt or other strong emotions. On top of that, it also means to provide support and not be judgemental of their circumstances. This simple act can be extremely helpful when someone is in deep grief, struggling with trauma or depression.

Many reasons to grief
Grieving is a normal and healthy way to respond to a loss. It describes the emotions you feel when you lose someone or something important in your life. There are many reasons why a person grieves, including:

  • Divorce.
  • Retirement.
  • Losing a job.
  • Losing financial security.
  • Death of someone you love, including pets.
  • Changes in a relationship such as breakup including friendships.

Grief is different for everyone
It might be easy to think a person doesn’t care just because they don’t show any emotional or physical pain. However, not everyone grieves in the same way and that’s okay!

People process grief in many ways and it often includes many emotional and physical symptoms such as:

  • Feelings – Anger, anxiety, confusion, denial, blame, depression, fear, guilt, loneliness, numbness, sadness, shock or yearning.
  • Thoughts – Confusion, difficulty concentrating, disbelief, hallucinations.
  • Physical sensations – Dizziness, headaches, hyperventilating or shortness of breath, tightness in the throat or chest.
  • Changes in behaviours – Crying spells, aggression, loss of energy, loss of interest in enjoyable activities or trouble sleeping.

The Do’s
At one time or another, someone you know will need a holding space and when that time comes, you’ll need to create a safe haven for them to pour out their feelings and emotion.

If you ever encountered such a situation, here are some of the things you can do when holding space for someone:

#1 Check in on them
Make an effort to check in even if it is a quick phone call or an invitation to grab a coffee together. In addition to this, taking them out will also help to keep their mind busy and away from the thoughts that bring them emotionally down.

#2 Understand the grieving process
Learn about the grieving process and how you can show support to someone who is grieving.

#3 Talk less, listen more
Allow them to express their feelings verbally and take this time to listen instead of giving your input on the situation.

#4 Give them the space they need
Sometimes it’s okay to let them be alone to process their feelings and thoughts.

#5 Your presence is enough
Showing up and providing love and support is enough to let them know you care even if it means to sit quietly together.

#6 Offer help
Grieving can cause people to neglect their own basic needs. Some of the help you could provide to lessen their burdens include:

  • Running errands.
  • Cleaning their house.
  • Cooking for them and their family if needed.
  • Offer to help with childcare.
  • Helping with laundry.

#7 Remember important dates
Coping with reminders of a loss such as death anniversaries can be a painful reminder. Try to keep in mind the dates, contact your grieving friend and let them know you’re thinking about them. This action can help reduce the feeling of loneliness.

The Don’ts
Here are several reminders about certain behaviours you would like to avoid such as:

#1 Don’t try to teach them how they should feel or grief.
#2 Don’t comment on their appearance. 
#3 Avoid using phrases such as “they’re better off now,” or “he/she wouldn’t want you to be sad”. These statements are surely meant with good intentions, but sometimes it can make the person who is grieving even more sad about their loss. 
#4 Don’t draw comparisons to your experience unless appropriate.

Suicide grief
A person who is grieving may sometimes make wrong decisions such as ending their life or hurting themselves physically. So, keep an eye out to make sure such things do not happen. If ever you feel they are prone to making such decisions, immediately alert their family members and try to get them professional help as soon as possible.

Help someone you love through grief
Every individual grieves differently. These are not set rules and more importantly, it does not replace the advice of a professional. Instead, understanding these tips may assist you when caring for someone who is grieving. 

If ever you feel they are prone to making such decisions, immediately alert their family members and try to get them professional help as soon as possible.

Sources: Familydoctor.org, Medium