When you lose a family member or loved one, the people who care about you try to help you in their own ways. Some people bring you food. Some invite you to spend time in a casual setting or doing planned activities. Some think it’s best to keep your mind occupied by work and hobbies. Others expect you to stay away from work or other activities while you deal with your grief. Everyone’s expectations are different, and everyone’s needs are different, when dealing with grief. You must communicate your needs to your friends and family to help them help you while you’re grieving.

Everyone Approaches Grieving Differently

Your friends, family, and co-workers all have their own ideas of what grieving looks like. Their beliefs and expectations shape how they approach you in a time of grieving. Your job is to communicate your needs. Let them know when their well-meaning offerings are compatible with your own style of grieving, and when they're not.

Communicate Your Needs Clearly and Without Guilt

The people who care about you are utterly well-meaning in the things they’ll try to do and say when you’re grieving. This makes it difficult for grieving individuals to express their needs without guilt. If one family member keeps making you casseroles, for example, and you just want it to stop - it may be difficult time to tell that family member to stop because you know she’s just trying to help.

Accept the fact that you are the person experiencing this grief, and should not feel guilt for expressing your needs. Just address the situation directly. Express appreciation for the helpful things people do. Ask for things that aren't being done. Communicate what isn't working. If you want to mitigate hurt feelings, lead with something like:

  • “I appreciate that you’re trying to help. Instead of that, it would help me if…”
  • “I respect your ideas about grief. My experience is different, and I need you to respect that.”
  • “Thank you for all that you’ve been doing. What I really need is...”

Be direct. It’s okay to tell people you don’t want them to do something. It’s also okay to ask for something you would like that your friends or family aren’t doing.

Your Needs Will Change

As you move through the grieving process, your needs will change. Whatever grief theories you subscribe to, experts believe you’ll move through different phases as you grieve over lost family members or loved ones. You’ll need different things during each of these phases, and you may have to communicate needs multiple times as you move through this process. Don’t feel bad about asking for the exact opposite of what you needed last week. Your emotions and needs will change, and the people who care about you understand that.

Ultimately, the thing to remember about communicating your needs is: do it. Let friends and family know what you need. Don’t let someone keep doing something that makes you feel sad, angry, annoyed, or upset. They’re trying to help, so help them help you by communicating your needs.

by: Dachary Carey