Different situations lead to different outcomes for individuals. When I lost my pet two months ago, it was an extremely difficult time for me. There were times I would call out his name only to be met with silence. Seeing his leash and toys lying around made me extremely sad. The grief of his loss brought out other repressed feelings to the surface, which added to it. During this struggle, I was fortunate to have my group of friends by my side every step of the way. Since some of them had experienced this loss before it was a great comfort to know that they understood my grief; their presence helped get me through the tough times that followed after my pet’s demise. It’s been two months, and though the pain still remains, I have made peace with the fact that he is not suffering anymore.
In times of great difficulty, a lot of people tend to shut themselves off from their friends and loved ones. They choose to deal with their pain alone, and oftentimes, find themselves struggling to cope once the emotions take over. Denying oneself the appropriate time and outlets to grieve can lead to emotional duress.
If you have noticed that your friend may be grieving and having a tough time reaching out, Dr Shambhavi Jaiman, consultant psychiatrist at Sukoon Health, Gurgaon, asks to look out for the following signs:
- Prolonged changes in emotional state or mood: You notice that they are constantly in a low mood and tend to be sad and detached for the most part.
- Subjective distress over a period of time: Visible feelings of discomfort and pain, and not being able to derive joy out of the things they otherwise liked to do (hobbies, sports, etc.).
- Difficulty in social functioning: They tend to display anti-social tendencies, and are not comfortable being out in public, or even around their family and friends.
- Disability in the performance of daily routine: Even getting out of bed seems like a mammoth task for them, or they constantly struggle with completing their basic work and chores.
The first step to being there for your friend when they are grieving is to be a good listener. “When they reach out to you with their problems, be a patient listener. Avoid using phrases such as ‘I understand what you are going through’, ‘Everyone goes through this’. Instead, you can use phrases like ‘I understand it must be really hard’,” says Dr Jaiman. Sometimes, your friend may be reluctant to share what they are going through, which is fine as long as you are not pushing them to talk about it. “Assure them that you are there to hear them out if they want to talk about what they are going through,” she adds.
If you feel the situation getting worse, encourage them to seek professional help. Coaxing or pushing them into it might just have the opposite effect so you must ease them into it. “Sometimes, as a friend, one may not have the emotional bandwidth required to help someone who is grieving. Easing, and not forcing, them into the idea of seeing a professional is the way to go,” explains Dr Jaiman.
Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on many—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Given the multiple safety protocols in place, one can’t always be physically present. In such times, you can opt various digital formats to reach out to them. Dr Jaiman suggests, “While there’s no doubt that you’re in constant contact with your friend, check in daily, and maybe even several times a day, try to set up video calls every two to three days to indulge in a face-to-face conversation. It can go a long way.”