Coping with the loss of a close friend or family member may be one of the hardest challenges that many of us face. When we lose a spouse, sibling or parent our grief can be particularly intense. ~ Marie Marley
Alzheimer's Reading Room
The last article I published here
dealt with how to cope with grief. Today’s article presents 10 practical ways to help another adult cope with grief.
This is followed by 10 down-to-earth suggestions for supporting a child who is grieving.
This article will be useful to people who want to support a spouse or adult child of someone with Alzheimer’s who has passed away. It will also help people desiring to help a child whose grandparent or other close elderly relative has died from Alzheimer’s.
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Some of the suggestions below were taken from my October 29 interview with Dianne Gray, President of the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation. Another source of information is an article on the Family Caregiving Alliance website.
How to Support a Grieving Adult
1. Just be with the person. Your physical presence may mean the world to him or her.
2. Listen without giving advice. Give the person time to share feelings for as long as they want.
3. Give a small gift – flowers or cards, for example. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. The smallest act of kindness may have the biggest impact.
4. Do not offer stories of your own experiences with grief. This can have the effect of dismissing the grieving person’s pain. Don’t make it about you. Focus exclusively on the person who is grieving.
5. Don’t claim to know what the person is feeling. No one ever quite knows what another is feeling. Instead, let the person tell you what he or she is feeling.
6. Share a hug or handclasp: Physical touch can bring great comfort to the bereaved.
7. Be there later, when friends and family have all gone back to their routines. This is especially important since grieving people often feel abandoned when others more or less disappear after the funeral is over.
8. Remember holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries which have important meaning for the bereaved. Offer additional support during this time.
9. Offer to do chores. People who are grieving often have difficulty asking for help.
10. Share stories and memories of the deceased.
How to Support a Grieving Child
Some of these ideas are from my interview with Dianne Gray; another source of information is
1. Talk to the child about the death that has occurred. Keep your comments simple, short and honest. Expressing feelings helps the child process his or her grief.
2. Let the child lead the conversation. This will give the child an opportunity to vent his or her feelings—which may be very different from yours.
3. Allow your child—no matter how young—to attend the funeral if he or she wants to.
4. Keep the child’s daily routine as normal as possible. This helps the child feel safe.
5. Don’t tell your child to stop crying. Crying is an important part of the grieving process.
6. Don’t stifle your own tears. By crying in front of your child, you send the message that it’s okay for him or her to express feelings, too.
7. Help the child find a way to memorialize the deceased. Let the child tell you what they would like to do, which, again, may be different from what you would choose.
8. Convey your spiritual values about life and death and/or pray with your child.
9. Don’t turn your child into your personal confidante. Rely on another adult or a support group instead.
How to Get Answers To Your Questions About Alzheimer's and Dementia
10. Don’t try to shield a child from the loss. Including them in the grieving process will help them adapt and heal.
Alzheimer's Care and Grief, Types, Stages and Symptoms
What is the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Marie Marley is the author of the award-winning “Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy” and co-author (with neurologist Daniel C. Potts, MD, FAAN) of “Finding Joy in Alzheimer’s: New Hope for Caregivers”. Her website ComeBackEarlyToday.com contains a wealth of information for Alzheimer’s caregivers.
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