Loss is part of life on this earth, and understanding how to support loved ones who are grieving can be an important skill for people of all ages. Seniors who want to be able to provide assistance to someone dealing with a loss or difficult situation can often draw on their own experiences and wisdom. But it's never a bad time to learn new tips for supporting others, and we've got three to consider below.
Ring Theory is a concept that helps people understand their roles in a time of grief and how they can best serve (and get support) from others. The idea is that there are concentric circles radiating out from the loss, and each circle should support the people inside of itself.
For example: Consider a woman losing her husband of 50 years. Ring Theory says that the woman is the center of the circles. On the circle just around her would be immediate family, such as adult children or a close sibling of her husband. A best friend might also be on that circle. Outside of that, less immediate family and good friends might make up a circle. Then, church family, acquaintances, people he used to work with and so on.
Someone in a middle circle works to support those inside of the circle they're in and the circles inside of that. They seek support from those outside of the circle they're in.
Obviously, this is just one theory, and every situation is different. But understanding the idea helps you know how best you might situate yourself within a community that is in grief.
Remember, too, that grief comes in many forms and for many reasons. It's not always about the loss of a loved one. A cancer diagnosis, a move or just a change in lifestyle are other types of loss. Be prepared to support friends and family with these types of griefs too.
If you're not sure how to help someone after a loss, start by simply getting in touch. Reaching out and letting people know you're thinking of them and here to listen can mean a lot.
Grief makes people uncomfortable, and it can be extremely isolating for the people closest to it. Someone who has experienced a loss may not want to burden their loved ones with all their emotions or thoughts. Or they may have felt like they are sharing too much or becoming a drag on others, who have waned in their support over time.
You reaching out into that situation and just stating that you're here and willing to hold up some of that burden can be a meaningful gesture. Send a card, make a phone call, schedule a lunch date or invite the person to an event or activity. They may say no because they aren't ready, and that's okay. Consider following up at a later time with another invite.
This can be especially important for people who are living in community with each other. Whether you're part of a suburban neighborhood, a church congregation or the community at an assisted living location like Hickory Villa in Omaha, NE, reaching out to those who are dealing with grief can be an important step in supporting and building community.
As humans, we often have a drive to fix the things around us that are troubling. People who love others want to improve the lives or situation of those loved ones, but that's not always possible. That's especially true in times of grief. You can't bring back what was lost, and time and faith are often the only things that heal.
So, instead of offering advice or trying to find a solution, simply offer a willing and active ear. Someone may appreciate the fact that you are willing to hear their stories and memories. They might simply need to complain or cry about a situation. They might want to rail angrily without being judged in their emotional moment. Being willing to listen like this is a trait of covenant friendship — friendship and offers love, grace and support.
There is a difference between listening to support and listening when you should act, though. If someone seems to have moved from grief to serious despair and you're worried about their health or well-being, encourage them to seek additional assistance. Those in an assisted living community could reach out to caring staff. Or you might encourage a loved one to talk to their spiritual leadership, their doctor or even a therapist.
Be kind and gentle when making such suggestions. Let them know you are always happy to support and listen to them but that you're worried about them and want them to have all the care that's available to them at this time.