After cremations as part of our cremations services, the intense grieving of losing a loved one to death begins. Intense grief is normal and that it may last for several months or even a year or two after the loved one has died.
However, sometimes grief is so intense that one of the family members of the loved one who died will literally withdraw into and isolate themselves in that grief. You may be a family member or a close friend who is trying to help them so that they can make their way forward through the grief process, but you may not be sure exactly how to do that.
One thing that you should not do is condemn your family member or friend for the way they are grieving or the intensity of their grief. Everyone grieves differently, and when people withdraw into grief, it’s often because, through no fault of their own, get stuck somewhere in the grieving process.
Instead of condemning them (which is dismissive and hurtful), show them kindness, compassion, and empathy as you try to help them get unstuck in their grief.
There are some very specific things that you can do to help a family member or close friend who has withdrawn into grief. These things are all part of spending time with them, even if their grief makes you uncomfortable or makes you sad.
One thing you should do when you’re talking with someone who has withdrawn into or is isolated within their grief is to avoid making “you” statements, instead framing your conversation with “I” statements.
As is true with most sensitive subjects that need to be broached, using a lot of “you” statements to describe the behavior of someone who has withdrawn into grief will put them on the defensive. When people are in defensive mode, they will either emotionally shut down and will not listen to anything else you say or they will erupt into anger and reject what you have to say.
Using “I” statements will get more positive results. Broach the subject of your family member or close friend who has withdrawn into grief expressing your concern for them and objective observations about their behavior.
An example might be, “I love you and I’m concern about you because I sense that you’re a little more distant lately. Is there anything I can do for you or that you need?” This opens up the door gently on their behavior and gives them the opportunity, if they choose, to lean on you for support.
Another thing that you can do to help a close friend or family member who has withdrawn into their grief is to avoid trying to fix things that you can’t fix. All too often, when somebody is stuck in intense grief, our natural reaction is to try to remember them of good things before their loved one died and the good things they have now.
This doesn’t address the reality of the present pain the person is feeling, and it can seem to them like you’re ignoring or dismissing their hurt. Instead, the best route to go is to acknowledge that losing someone you love hurts and the pain from that can be really bad and really intense.
Just the knowledge that you understand how much pain your family member or close friend is experiencing and that you know it’s real may be the important connection they need to get unstuck in their grief.