How to mourn
December 22, 2003 8:15 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to mourn the passing of a loved one? What's the best way to help one's family grieve?
posted by trharlan to Human Relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
remembrance. Also, asking oneself, what would this person do or say when a future situation arises.


grievings a stage, the best thing to help is allowing proper time and to help that person not dwell in the grief.

laughter helps in time also.
posted by clavdivs at 8:22 AM on December 22, 2003

There isn't any 'right' answer to this question.

I think the biggest thing is to understand that people grieve in different ways. The best way to help someone is to allow them to come to terms with a death in their own way and in their own time.
posted by cedar at 8:26 AM on December 22, 2003

Generally -- and speaking only for myself on this one, the best thing to do for others who are grieving is to try to help in any way you can without going through the normal courtesy step of saying "Is there anything I can do?" People dealing with a lot of grief will always say no to that one, even if they're being eaten up inside. If they live nearby, go over with food, or go over and do the dishes or help clean up. You can also call them on the phone and ask specific questions "Can I give you a ride to the service? Do you need someone to call other members of the family? Would you like me to handle some of this paperwork for you?" Sometimes just being around available to listen, or helping people not be alone is a good thing. Don't always feel like you need to be chatty. If they'd like to be alone, they will tell you and you can make a graceful exit.

Another useful thing to remember is that the grief will last much longer than just the few weeks necessary to sort of process it, deal with arrangements and notify family and friends. Being in touch on a deceased loved one's birthday or anniversary is often a good thing to do. I often call my Mom on her mother's birthday, even though my grandmother has been dead for years and it's a way for us to both remember her and an excuse to talk about her.
posted by jessamyn at 8:39 AM on December 22, 2003

What cedar said--allow people to grieve in their own way and in their own time.

From my personal experience: my mother died very suddenly my senior year in high school, and I chose to deal with it by throwing myself into after school activities. A lot of people thought this was exceedingly strange, they thought I should and withdraw from everything for some set period of time.

It is hard enough losing someone you love without also having to deal with other people's expectations for your grief.
posted by eilatan at 8:57 AM on December 22, 2003

What cedar said (Again, but it can't be emphasised enough). Plus - what eilatan said. Don't expect anyone to behave in a certain way, and don't judge those that mourn in a way that is different to the way you mourn.
posted by seanyboy at 9:19 AM on December 22, 2003

Never judge how someone else reacts to bereavement.

Know that no matter how you want to, there is NOTHING you can do to make that person feel better.

Never say or imply to a person that they should stop grieving after a particular time, or that they should just "get over it and go on."

If you are asking how YOU can best grieve-nobody knows, and only you will know as you experience it. But it is important to grieve and not try to hold it back or be "strong" because it will eventually come out no matter what, and be even harder to handle. That having been said, grieving is what YOU experience it to be and no one, I repeat, no one has the right to assume, judge or tell you how to do it.

BTW people will say the oddest or stupidest things-try to have grace for them. Most of them really do mean well.

One other thing-just because someone is not a family member or a close friend, it is possible to grieve rather deeply anyway. Be gentle with these people.

And know that the grief will indeed ease and become somewhat bearable over time-but it will never be completely gone.
posted by konolia at 9:24 AM on December 22, 2003

I think any "best way" would involve doing at least a little of it in advance. I contemplate the passing of pretty much everyone I know from time to time, including myself. Far from being morbid, this reflection brings my feelings about the person into sharp focus, and my perspective on life firmly grounded in the big picture of how precious it all is.
posted by scarabic at 12:53 PM on December 22, 2003

Sorry if that doesn't help you now, btw. I didn't mean to be flippant about it.
posted by scarabic at 12:54 PM on December 22, 2003

Being in touch on a deceased loved one's birthday or anniversary is often a good thing to do.

my dad suddenly passed away in june and when his birthday came around in november i was deeply grateful for the phone calls i received. i wish more people had called me than did actually. later people mentioned they were afraid to call, they didn't want to upset me since i'd been doing so well recently. so make those calls.

the one thing that's bugging me the most at this time of year is everyone is insisting i attend parties and do the full christmas thing at home with the tree etc. they want to distract me, but i need to be quiet and face it in my own way. just let the grieving person(s) know they are invited but don't insist. call, drop by with a holiday treat, but don't insist on them being merry. even if 6 months or more have gone by.

don't put a time table on those who are grieving, there is no schedule we can go by. so if you know someone who is taking longer than you expected don't worry, just stick around, make lots of no pressure contact, and let them talk about their loved one as much as they need to.

If you are asking how YOU can best grieve-nobody knows

that's so true. just take each hour at a time, each day at a time, each week, etc. some days will be good, others will be bad. don't be hard on yourself in terms of personal expectations, don't make any serious decisions for about 6-9 months, and even if you feel like withdrawing into yourself, make sure to keep regular contact with at least a few trusted friends/family members. it will absolutely get better, you will go on, you will be happy, and your loved one will always be with you.
posted by t r a c y at 2:59 PM on December 22, 2003

Closed lips, open ears & lending a shoulder to cry on... added all the above.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:43 PM on December 22, 2003

When my dad died, the entire house was a disaster. No one really knew what to do, and me going through puberty at the time definately did not help at all. It's been almost 8 years and my dad still comes to mind every now and then, and sometimes I cry about it when I drink.

I remember teachers and friends asking "Is there anything I can do?" and I would always say no, because why would you want to throw problems on your friends and teachers?

The phrase 'Time heals all wounds' is, quite simply, true. All it takes is time. Try to stick around and be a friend (or relative, or sister, etcetera) for now. If it is you that is mourning, don't let yourself believe that feeling bad is selfish, like I did for a while. That made everything worse.
posted by Keyser Soze at 8:43 PM on December 22, 2003

Helping kids grieve is different than helping adults, it requires an understanding of where they are in their development cycle. Here's an in-depth article that discusses a child's grief including the differences in perception, understanding, and response broken down by age groups. I have sadly seen this close up, having four nieces and nephews who ranged in age from 4 to 13 when they lost their wonderful Daddy. Many of the reactions and behaviors described in this article were spot on; many of the recommendations it offers are quite good.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:42 PM on December 22, 2003

my dad died two years ago this christmas eve and i found that prayer was helpful to me in ways which i wont go into here.
Best way to grieve ? crying helps.
I remember somebody insisting i go to a new years party that same christmas eve , i just agreed with them , mentally vaporized them and stayed in the house.
I think im pretty much coming out of it now, no point in two people dying.
tbh crying was a good one for me , although i wasnt that used to it , i knew it was neccessary to avoid a big depression setting in.
It was good for me to celebrate the person rather than getting too morbid about it all.
posted by sgt.serenity at 10:00 PM on December 22, 2003

My mother found that guilt was the final hurdle in overcoming the grief at her mother's death. Grandma's health had gone rapidly downhill and she lingered in a coma about 3 days after her final stroke. My mother felt she was a bad person for feeling relieved when grandma finally passed on.

It wasn't until the death of her best friend's father that my mother realized that other people can feel the same sort of guilt with a loved one's passing. Said best friend thought she was a terrible daughter. In truth, both women had been excellent, loving caretakers of their parents and the relief felt was a product of genuine concern over the quality of life each parent went through in their final moments.

It surprised me that my mom had felt this way for so long (grandma died almost 2 years ago). There's no shame in wishing for a peaceful end to a life well-lived.
posted by Sangre Azul at 1:54 PM on December 23, 2003

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