Grief can come from many places: the death of a close friend or family member, divorce, job loss, retirement, owning a company that goes out of business, having a pet die, or being diagnosed with a serious or long-term illness. Everyone experiences these events in different ways, and will take differing amounts of time to work through the loss of career, loved one, or one’s health. However, for a person with a mental illness, the pain of grief and loss can have an even greater impact.
If you’re helping a friend or family member through grief, here are five key tips to keep in mind.
- Listen more than you talk. With all types of loss, listening is more important than knowing the right thing to say. Don’t try to fill in as therapist; your loved one needs supportive friends and family during tough times to remember that there is still much to live for.
- Encourage them to set aside some time to grieve. Bottled up emotions cause more problems long term than grief that’s expressed more freely. Setting aside scheduled time to reminiscence and accept the change in their lives can help them to cope better during the rest of the day, so that they can remain productive at work or in other activities and still take time to grieve.
- Watch for clinical depression. Loss causes sadness, which is normal, but it can trigger complicated grief or clinical depression. If your family member is already dealing with mood disorders or other related issues such as anxiety disorder, then the impact of grief could be more profound. Seek help early and be on the watch for any talk about suicidal thoughts or self-harm. Other things that could indicate depression include disruptions in sleep (either sleeping too much, or too little, or sleeping during the day and staying up at night).
- Find things for your loved one to look forward to. Perhaps there’s a much-anticipated movie that’s coming out during the holidays (which are usually a tough time for anyone experiencing grief), lunch with some old friends, or a museum exhibit coming up. Bear in mind that a busy social calendar can interfere with grief, but a few events can help your loved one experience life and find things to look forward to.
- Understand your loved one’s social and emotional needs. Sometimes he or she may want to get together with friends, and other times needs to be alone. Be sensitive to the fact that family events can be acutely stressful and distressing after a loss (either of a spouse to death, after a job loss, or following a divorce. Don’t pressure them to attend parties or events that put them together with people who could make the situation worse.
At Dallas Behavioral Healthcare Hospital, we offer in-patient and intensive outpatient treatment for depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and many other conditions. Please call us at 855-982-0897 or fill out a contact form online for a free, confidential assessment for you or a loved one. We are here to help.