The last year and a half has seen the loss of millions of lives due to COVID-19. The deaths of family, friends, and co-workers have left a gaping hole in our lives.
Our TV screens beaming images of bodies piled up at crematoriums and funeral homes, memories of emotional goodbyes from hospital rooms, and the outpouring of grief on social media have increased our anxiety.
Isolation in times of grief has increased the despondency. Circumstances have been tough, making us lean on our loved ones for emotional support.
I have lost count of the number of condolence messages I have written, the number of times I stepped aside to cry in the middle of my workday, and twitched every time the phone rang at night.
In these tough times what has helped is a network of family, friends and colleagues helping each other cope whenever we hit a new low.
Which brings me to the question asked by so many people on various social media channels.
How do we support each other through this cycle of pain?
What is the best way to support a friend, family member or colleagues during their time of grief?
Here are a few things you can do:
Be a good listener
If you have offered someone your time and attention, make sure you are ready to listen. It is also good to check with the person if they want your opinion or advice before offering any.
People don’t always expect solutions; sometimes they just want to talk. They need someone to listen to what they are feeling without being judged.
Be there but don’t intrude
As a loved one with pain and emotions, they may hesitate to open up. At this time, it’s okay to nudge them a little by asking a few questions that would put them at ease. Ask them how they are doing and offer to listen if they want to have a conversation. Just be attentive, you will know when to nudge a person to share and when to respect their space. It can get tricky at times, but if a person asks you to respect their space, then you must do so. You could, however, continue to keep checking if they are okay.
Show vulnerability but don’t monopolise the conversation
If you have lost a loved one, then maybe you could show that you are aware of the pain and the grief of losing a loved one. However, do not make it about yourself and share your experiences.
Avoid the path of toxic positivity
It is acceptable to be quiet, withdrawn, sad, and upset when dealing with grief. Just like it is okay to smile, and laugh too. The idea is to support the person in doing whatever helps them cope and get through the suffering and pain of losing a loved one. Sometimes it may take a few days, a few weeks, months, or even years. What matters is the assurance that it’s okay to do whatever it takes to cope.
“Be assertive”, “move on”, “stay positive” are phrases that reek of toxic positivity, and you need to be careful while using them. Messages that ask someone to stay positive and strong, especially if you have never experienced losing a loved one in life, can make you appear tone-deaf, and it’s better to avoid such encounters.
As we continue to deal with the pandemic, I hope you can continue to reach out to your family, friends, and loved ones irrespective of whether you seek support or offer it.