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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Etiquette of Grief

I am not a grief counselor, nor am I an expert in emotional management. However, when it comes to most delicate situations it's always best to use basic manners, and be respectful.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve the loss of a loved one. There is no timetable for grieving, as the healing process takes nothing less than time. The grieving process is unique to each person, and each situation. So how should you act when you encounter a person in mourning or still grieving a great loss? That answer is unique to each person and situation as well.

Some people internalize their feelings. They don't talk about their grief, and they don't want to be forced to talk about it either. They just want to get on with their normal routine, and deal with the loss within the privacy of their own minds. Others may not internalize their pain so completely, but still wish to grieve privately. They may shed a tear or two in public, but still don't want to talk to anyone. They may take their grief into the privacy of their home and only share their emotions with a close family member or friend.

There are also those who constantly need people around them. They need the comfort of warm hugs, loving embraces, and consoling conversations. They may make public posts to share their pain with anyone who will listen, just to help find a way to calm the pain of loss they are feeling. They need to be engaged in a lot of social activities, for fear of being alone and falling into a despair so deep they may never recover.

Some people need only a day or two to mourn, others it may take a lifetime.

The best thing you can do for someone who is grieving is to simply pay attention to the signs and signals they are giving. If someone is a private griever, simply send a note of condolence, be mindful to not draw any attention to the situation, and respect their privacy. These people want to left alone, and everyone should respect that. If they are an open griever, reach out to them as much and as often as you can, for as long as it takes.

Some helpful things you can do that are standard etiquette are:

  • Send a card, flowers, or fruit basket to show your support. This should be done at the time of the funeral, and the weeks following. 
  • Offer to make a dish for the grieving family, or offer to help clean, do laundry, or help with the children and/or pets. Some people may need basic help in area's of life that are routine, and may get overlooked during a difficult time.
  • Offer to help with "Thank You" notes.  
  • If you don't know what to say, "I'm sorry for your loss" is usually best. Sometimes it's best not to say anything at all and just sit with them as a comforting presence. 
  • If you don't know how someone is dealing with their grief, ask a close family member or friend. They will give you the best insight into what is needed. 
It is always important to remember to respect the family's wishes, even if you don't agree with them. Every person, family, and culture has their own way they experience grief. Do not put your expectations on someone else, and do your best to show your support in a manner that is appropriate to each individual.

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