If a friend, loved one, or family member has been through a tragedy
there are some things that you can do to help support them as they
seek out their natural support network.
- Ask what they need for support and how they need it. Asking for
their permission is important. Don’t take the need for space personally.
- Listen! Be supportive! Don’t be critical!
- Spend time with the person.
- Remember grieving is individualized and not everyone may grieve
the same as the person offering help or they may grieve differently
for one loss than they did for another loss.
- Reassure them.
- Help them with everyday tasks like cleaning, cooking, caring for
family, taking care of children. Sometimes it may be helpful to
replace “can I help you with anything?” with “I would really like to
help, is there anything specific you need?” or “I/We would like to
do _____ for you, is that OK?”
- Give them some private time.
- Make sure they are taking time for themselves.
- Encourage them to disconnect from news or social media postings of
the event or from other stressful events that could be stressful or triggering.
- Don’t take their frustration, anger, or other feelings personally.
- Don’t tell them that they are “lucky it wasn’t worse.” A
traumatized person is not consoled by these statements. Instead,
tell them that you are sorry such an event has occurred and you want
to understand and assist.
- Be careful of too many questions. Let the person take the lead on
what they are comfortable with offering an open-ended invitation
(ex. “You don’t have to tell me anything, I just wanted you to know
you are in my thoughts and I am here for you if you need to talk.”)
- Provide encouraging statements and affirmations.
- If you’re worried about their reactions or if they are more severe
than you feel comfortable with, get them to talk to a professional
or seek consultation yourself to see what to do to help.
- File a CARE referral to have someone from the University reach out
to support the student: https://www.gvsu.edu/care/
Call 9-1-1 if they need immediate assistance or are
experiencing suicidal thoughts, thoughts of self-harm or harming
others, or if they have serious medical issues such as chest
pains, panic attacks, etc.).