December 20, 2023

Navigating Grief Together Part 1: Understanding Grief

By Mariah Kelty
Anxiety & Depression
Mental Health & Wellbeing

I will never forget the phone call I received from my best friend one Friday evening many years ago. The crack in their voice, the sobs, the news that they shared: they had just lost a loved one in a tragic accident.

Holding my phone, I sat there in shock and totally uncertain of what to do or say. I remember feeling a heaviness in my heart, the confusion, and the shakiness in my body.

Maybe you have faced a moment like this. Maybe you have gotten that text or call or walked across a room at a funeral to console someone face-to-face.

Regardless of the circumstance, there is nothing quite like searching for the words to say to bring someone any answer, comfort, or reassurance in their pain. This can be one of the most difficult spaces to step into, trying to care for a loved one as they are grieving and empathize with their pain.

And yet, supporting people in their darkest moments of pain is so important. So, how do we do it and do it well?

Perhaps my experience and clinical background can guide you as you walk alongside a hurting loved one.

Understanding Grief

Firstly, it is important to understand what grief is and how it presents.

Grief is a natural, complex emotional response to various types of loss. This loss is often understood to be the death of someone, but grief can be triggered by the loss of a relationship, a job, a dream, the diagnosis of a serious illness, or a major life change.

Additionally, grief is characterized by a wide range of emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. Most commonly, grief is known by the stages of sadness, anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Most notably, grief is unique to every individual and expressed in many ways. There is no exact “right way” to grieve.

Validate Their Emotions

Grief is a complex mix of emotions, and your loved one may experience sadness, anger, guilt, or even moments of joy and relief. It’s crucial to validate all these feelings without trying to change or fix them. Reassure them that it’s okay to feel what they feel and that everyone experiences grief differently.

Be Patient

Grieving takes time, and there’s no set timeline for healing. Be patient with your loved one and avoid pushing them to “move on” or “get over it.” Grief doesn’t have an expiration date, and showing up continually throughout the process is what is most important.

Respect Their Need for Space

While your support is invaluable, remember that grieving individuals might need moments of solitude to process their emotions. Respect their need for space and alone time without feeling rejected.

Caring for a grieving loved one is an act of love, compassion, and patience. As a mental health therapist, I’ve seen firsthand the power of support in the healing process.

Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach; every individual’s journey through grief is unique. Your presence, empathy, and willingness to be there for your loved one can make a significant difference in their path toward healing.

In the end, it’s not about “fixing” their grief; it’s about being a steadfast presence during a challenging time and allowing them to heal at their own pace. Your love and support are immeasurable gifts during the journey of grief.

If you or a loved one is in need of a space to process and grieve, don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist at Optimum Joy! 



Written By

Mariah Kelty

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