A Therapist Shares Useful Tricks to Assist

I’ve at all times thought of myself a compassionate particular person. The kind of buddy, spouse, daughter, and mom who leads with a sympathetic and empathetic foot ahead when my family members want an ear, shoulder, hug, or hand-held. This innate emotional urge sustains me and makes me really feel like I’m doing my finest to take care of an open coronary heart coverage, significantly when life palms us exhausting occasions. 

However lately I’ve been put to a take a look at that stretches a lot deeper than any Hallmark card sentiment can go well with. My husband’s mom lately handed away after an extended debilitating illness. (It’s possible you’ll bear in mind her vibrant spirit from when I gushed about her brilliant soul in a latest Summer season Solstice characteristic.) Throughout his grief, there have been occasions that my arms abruptly don’t really feel lengthy sufficient to carry him as tightly as I ought to, or sturdy sufficient to supply the quantity of consolation I so desperately need to give him. 

It’s been a few months since we mentioned our last goodbyes to her, our vibrant household mild, and along with her passing stays a cavernous feeling of grief amongst these she left behind. I’ve watched my husband really feel the loss so deeply. It’s been heartbreaking on each stage. And whereas I’ve tried to make sure I do all of the “proper” issues to indicate him help, I’ve typically puzzled via this grieving course of, Am I actually doing this accurately? Is there a greater means to assist him via this?

Whereas there are books and podcasts a-plenty about processing grief your self, there isn’t a lot in the way in which of a available roadmap on the way to help somebody else as they grieve. So I turned to Holly Lawson from Austin-based The Relationship Clinic, who I knew would have some smart phrases on the topic. Preserve studying to see how she sheds mild on the phases of loss, her recommendations for navigating the assorted forms of grief, and what not to say when somebody is in mourning.

We’re often told there are stages of grief, is this true? And if so, what are they?

True. First noted by physician and author Elizabeth Kubler Ross in the 1960s as the five stages of grief. She proposed that people transition through sequential stages of emotions when experiencing loss.

The five stages are:

Denial — “This can’t be happening to me.”

Anger — “Why is this happening?”

Bargaining — “If things could have been done differently or if I could do something now.”

Depression — “I’m sad this is happening/happened.”

Acceptance — “I understand and accept this is happening/happened.”

Grief is the body’s naturally occurring mechanism to process and reconcile pain, discomfort, and distressing emotions at the loss of something important, loved, desired, or attached to.  Stages of grief are one way to observe and understand the range of experiences and emotions in this process across the human continuum and cultures. 

Important to note is that not all experience grief in the same way. For many, the stages of grief are not linear or sequential but far messier and circular. Some experience some of the stages but not all. Some repeat the cycle many times, while others dance in and out and out of order throughout time.

Grief is as unique as the one experiencing the loss and is the body’s way of processing the pain. Once I was told, “Grief means we loved.”

Are there different types of grief?

Yes.  Many types of grief, depending on the situation, the timing of the loss, the circumstances surrounding the loss, and one’s response to the loss. While there are nearly a dozens types mentioned in scholarly writings, here are some of the main types of grief experienced in one’s lifetime:

Normal Grief —  This includes periods of intense emotions as one moves through the stages of grief and gradually starts to accept the loss, with alleviating symptoms over time. Symptoms can range from crying, despair, insomnia, fatigue, withdrawal, avoidance, weight gain or loss, numbness, yearning, fear, loneliness, and a myriad of other emotions. 

Anticipated Grief — This type is experienced usually when one has had some leeway and time to prepare for their loved one’s death, usually in the case of a long-term illness. This type of grief can raise confusing and conflicting feelings as you “pre-grieve” someone who is still alive and arouse feelings of guilt for feeling relief upon their death. 

And other types of grief include:

Chronic Grief — Feelings that do not subside and create debilitating effects in functioning.

Delayed Grief — When symptoms of grief are not experienced until long after the one’s loss, where the pain of the loss is suppressed until symptoms present. 

Cumulative Grief — When a second or multiple experiences of loss are compounded and experienced in the same or near to the same time period.

Secondary Loss — When the experience of the primary loss impacts other elements surrounding the loss… (i.e. the loss of a parent also may trigger feelings of loss at their future wedding or life event experience, or the role a parent plays in their “script.”)

What are the best things someone can do when a friend or loved one is in grief?

I like to use grief as a verb and say when one is “grieving” as it describes an active experience. There is no universal language for death or loss. Therefore, many of us flounder and avoid or become uncomfortable in the “comforting role” when a loved one or friend experiences loss. While “I am sorry for your loss” is most often what comes to mind for many followed by uncomfortable silence, here are some samples of phrases that I personally feel are more emotionally supportive and allow the recipient to feel your true presence and support, exerted and crafted from

“I cherished how your (mother, husband, and so forth.) did this one factor… (share a optimistic reminiscence.)

“You don’t have to speak… simply sit… I’m proper beside you.”

“There isn’t any proper or flawed method to grieve. Your life has been modified ceaselessly.”

“I can’t think about how you are feeling, however I’m right here.”

“Inform me one other about your (mom, buddy, and so forth.)…”

“You may speak about your (husband, mother, and so forth) everytime you need – in 5, 10, 15 – 30 years from now.”

And a private favourite:  “I’ve no phrases, this simply sucks.” 

What are the things not to say to something experiencing grief?

One of the suggestions I have is to not make it about your own experience. An example of what not to say might be, “I know how you feel, I lost my mom a few years ago.”

Another suggestion would be not to explain, minimize, or speed up one’s grief recovery. This might look like, “Look at all the other things you have to live for and be grateful for…”… or “Hey, let’s go do something fun and get your mind off of this for a while.”

Also, probably not a great idea to give a reason to the griever for the loss. Example: “Well, they lived a long life and it was their time…”

What are the best resources for when one is experiencing grief?


Podcast: The Widowed Parent Podcast

E book: Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss and On Death and Dying

+ Assist If You’re in Austin: The Austin Center for Grief & Loss

How does seeking third party help (therapy) help with the grieving process?

Third party help—counseling, acupuncture, massage, and other healing arts and practices—can aid in moving the energy of grief and sadness piled up overtime or at the onset, as these intense emotions can block, and weigh, and feel very burdensome. If we rely only on our loved ones for the support (who also may be experiencing their own level of grief both at the loss of the deceased but also the loss of their loved one who is grieving and less available), the support may not be adequate and may also be more charged and/or diluted. We want concentrated holistic professional services for life’s deepest and most intimate of experiences (grief being one of them) in order to be fully supported and heard and seen and guided—without the expectations that family and friends might have on our wellbeing strategies and timeline.

When is the right time to suggest therapy for a loved one experiencing grief?

I always encourage loved ones to be careful in how they “suggest” a “should” or “ought to” in reference to seeking therapy, as it is such a personal endeavor and one needs to seek rather than be told to. So, for a loved one who is concerned for their family member based on what they’re observing, noticing, hearing and experiencing, that seems beyond the normal expression of grief, or that persists, I would recommend they include sources for support “in general” as a resource, rather than a suggestion or prompt. 

Something like, “I heard about this place that someone mentioned that helped through something similar to what you are going through. It’s called Austin Grief Counselors” or whatever the local place is.


“I read recently that walking and talking, or walk therapy really helped people through grief experiences. Could you imagine that being something that may support you?”

For a child or teen experiencing grief, do the same tips apply here as for an adult?

This depends on the developmental age of the child. By high school, teens can express their grief often in the form of anger while younger children may suppress the experience altogether and carry on with normal activities. Meet them where they are and be present with them and answer their questions gently. If they skip off with jubilation after a deep conversation, do not be alarmed. Be honest with them. Answer questions and talk openly with them without fear.

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