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What is Grief and How Can You Support Someone Grieving?
Many of us understand grief as the pain that accompanies the loss of a loved one and, while we all experience grief, each person's journey is unique. There is no timeline for grief and mourning, and not everyone experiences the loss in the same way. Similarly, grief is not limited to losing a loved one such as a parent, child, partner, sibling, or close friend. Grief can also be experienced after the loss of a pet, after a divorce, or from the loss of a significant role or possession, such as a job or a house.
For someone grieving the loss of a loved one, their grief may be compounded with confusion or guilt, particularly in the case of a complex or challenging relationship. Yet, for those who experience these other forms of grief, whether a pet or a possession, their pain is often accompanied by the feeling that they do not have permission to experience it because others do not acknowledge it.
If you know someone who is grieving, it is beneficial to treat them with compassion and understand that they are entitled to their individualized grieving process, which may include feelings like anger or numbness that can last for a long time. That said, it is best to resist judging this person for grieving "too long." Instead, practice active listening when you are around them. Do not avoid acknowledging their loss or encourage them to seek closure. Instead, share memories, offer practical support, and give them the space and time they need for reassurance that their feelings are valid.