Dedicated to Understanding Grief

Howard Lunche, MSW, LCSW

WHAT HELPS - Support

Support is vital for any us cycling through the emotions and other symptoms associated with grief. Only we can experience our grief, but others who are patient and understanding, and share in our mourning make getting through the grief more tolerable. If support is not readily available from family, friends, and community, finding it becomes an additional burden for us. At this most difficult time, we must determine what will be supportive, where to find it, whom we feel comfortable receiving it from, and how to utilize it.


Many people confront the common, powerful societal value that says we are weak and that something is wrong with us when we acknowledge we need help. If we overcome our own belief in this, and the associated stigma, we may find we are ambivalent about, or do not know, what would be supportive.


Many of us want others to know what we need and to respond accordingly. We may become angry when others cannot see our pain, dismiss or ignore it, or respond differently than we wish. Support can be many things: someone who is a good listener and understands, a prepared meal, childcare, an invitation to take a walk, share in prayer, and more depending on individual personality and needs. The difficult part is that the burden of deciding what is supportive, whom it should come from, and seeking it falls to us.


What is supportive will vary from individual to individual depending on personal preference and need. It will also vary depending on the specific loss and the circumstances during any given period of bereavement. It is helpful to keep in mind basic concepts of mourning, which help ease the grief.


Who among your family and friends is able to allow for the possibility that you will be affected over a long period of time by the loss you have incurred? Where can you find others who acknowledge the importance of the person who died, validate your grief response, and be with you in the midst of your pain? Who is willing to engage with you in casual reminiscing or rituals of remembering? Do you prefer the privacy of personal prayer or meditation, visiting the gravesite, creating an altar, or writing in a journal? Are you comfortable in a support group or do you prefer one to one interaction with a supportive person? Are there others who can assist you with concrete tasks (health claims, social security, childcare, etc.) that will lighten your load of responsibilities during this emotionally and otherwise demanding time? 


Having people and places where you can openly and actively mourn facilitates getting through grief and adjusting to the death and absence of the one who died. Support can come from family, friends, work associates, clergy, counselors, and other people in bereavement. It might be formal, traditional, and organized, or it may be spontaneous and casual. The common denominator is that it allows for, acknowledges, and validates the loss and your grief. It fosters your progression toward acceptance of the reality of life without the deceased, honors the meaningfulness of this, and assists you in your adjustment to this new reality. Being without support can contribute to feelings of isolation and despair, and prolong your suffering.


The quality and quantity of support can be an important determinant of your healthy progression through grief. As you progress through your grief, what you want and need, and whom you want or need it from, may change. It is important to allow for support. Continue to evaluate over time what you need and want to help you accept and integrate the death and loss into your life in a healthy way.


Read more about What Helps on the following pages. 

What Helps | Allowance | Acknowledgment | Remembering | Support | Acceptance | Meaning | More Reading