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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: How We Can Help Someone Deal with Loss

Although we learn the concepts of life and death from a very young age, although we often rehearse expressions such as "we will all die one day" or "everything has an end," when it comes to loss, we are never prepared enough to face mourning and manage the grief that follows a death – especially when the loss of a loved one is sudden, irrational, and unjust, like all these losses experienced by millions of people on the planet, because of the terrible pandemic that still threatens us. 

Even if we are one of the lucky ones who have not experienced the loss of one of our own people, we have friends, relatives, colleagues who are mourning the loss of loved ones. 

So how can we help a person who is mourning such a loss? How can we support our loved ones, to help them bear more easily the sudden loss and pain? 

We must first of all accept the fact that mourning is a very personal experience and therefore belongs exclusively to the person who experiences it. This means that as much as we would like it to help, it is very likely that the efforts we make will have no result at all. 

But there are definitely some things to avoid. 

There is no point in using clichés like "everything happens for a reason" or "it didn't just happen to you" or "everything will be fine." With such expressions it is as if we are trying to avoid the feelings of the grieving person or even worse, as if we are trying to diminish them. 

It is of no use giving the other person examples of how you managed similar situations. Expressions like "it happened to me too, and I did this…" make you the center of attention, suggesting to the other person that he or she is less important than you. 

It is of no use to urge the bereaved to think positively or to say "you will soon feel better." After all, how can one think positively, when one has lost a loved one? What positive can be found in the loss? 

And how long does this “soon” take until they feel better? 

So how can we help in a practical way? 

Many times the person who mourns needs to be heard, to talk about the pain, to talk about the person who was lost. Being present and listening to him is perhaps the most effective help we can offer in these cases, along with a hug and an “I am here for you.” 

We can give our loved one space to experience their emotion, to express their pain undisturbed. We can make him feel comfortable crying, shouting, and not being ashamed of those feelings. 

We can help our loved one, relative or friend in the daily chores that he may find difficult to do. We can shop for him or help him at home with some other chores. 

And when the time is right we can encourage the bereaved to do something creative or join a volunteer group. Many times expression through creative efforts can help us deal with pain, as well as contributing to our fellow human beings something that can become an important source of happiness. 

Finally, it is perhaps important to remind the bereaved to take care of themselves. To sleep and eat normally, to try to be active even if at first it seems very difficult. We can set up some recreational activities with him such as a sports activity, a nature walk, a weekly get-together for food or coffee or to watch a movie. 

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