Can Empathy Be Learned?

Being empathetic may come naturally for some, but that doesn't mean all hope is lost.

If you clicked on this blog, you’re either: 

A.) Wondering if that person you have a hard time with has a chance of growing into an empathetic individual or if they’re stuck as they are forever, or 

B.) Trying to figure this out for yourself. 

For the sake of clarity, I’m going to talk to you. But you can also apply this information to that sister, or friend, or mother-in-law that you feel doesn’t feel (or however you want to define your perception of them). 

For the sake of your time: YES. Empathy can be learned. (Phew!)

Research suggests that genetics determine about 50 percent of how empathetic a person is. The other 50-ish percent can be learned. 

Here’s how Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines empathy: 

“The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.” 

Basically, an empathetic person can understand and share another’s feelings. But it doesn’t come naturally for everyone, right?

Here are some things you can do if you need to learn empathy because it doesn’t come naturally:

1. Understand that you are biased. Everyone is. 

Every moment you’ve experienced has formed itself into the larger story of you, your life, who you are, and why. Think about the moments that have influenced you. Whatever comes to mind has shaped who you are right now. Your moments have been just as impactful as those that have shaped your sister, husband, father-in-law, or co-worker. Their moments have molded them differently. Their moments impact every decision they make, just as your moments have for you. This leads to my next point…

2. Ask questions.

The next time you speak with someone, let your primary goal be to learn more about them. Jodi Halpern, psychiatrist and bioethics professor at the University of California, says that the core of empathy is curiosity. As you ask and learn about the experiences that have shaped the person you’re engaging with, you may empathize with them more. It will also help you understand that who they are is a result of what they’ve experienced.  

3. Read stories.

Dr. Helen Riess (author of The Empathy Effect) says this about reading: “You enter the thoughts, heart and mind of another person who’s not like you, and it really does break down barriers.” What an amazing excuse to curl up with a good story – yes, fiction applies to this.” 

4. Join in.

The thing about empathy is that it’s not passive. In A Way of Being, clinical psychologist professor Carl Rogers put it this way: “Empathy involves being sensitive, moment to moment, to the changing felt meanings which flow in this other person, to the fear or rage or tenderness or confusion or whatever, that [they] are experiencing. It means temporarily living in [their] life…” 

What Rogers describes is what it looks like to engage in another person’s life and experience. A great way to engage with people is to volunteer in your community. It’s one thing to witness brokenness (i.e., the homeless man who frequents the same bench on your commute to work). It’s entirely another thing to serve within the brokenness (i.e., feeding the man). The former is passive, and the latter is active. 

You’re normal if empathy is not something that comes naturally to you. 

You are not a hopeless case (and I hope no one has ever made you feel like you are because that’s just not true). 

Take a breather. You can learn. I urge you to remember that everyone has things that don’t come naturally to them. Yours just happens to be empathy. You have everything you need to care deeply for others, but you don’t have to do this alone. Let someone you trust know about your plan for working on empathy so they can come alongside you in your journey and offer assistance/accountability when needed. You can do this!

Sources:

Counseling and Therapy Skills by David Martin

Can Empathy Be Taught?

How to Be More Empathetic

Other blogs:

How To Build Empathy In Marriage

How to Teach Your Child to Be Empathetic

What To Do When Your Spouse Lacks Empathy

3 Ways Empathy Can Strengthen Your Marriage

The Art of Communication

Try these steps to prevent miscommunication in your relationships!

Have you ever gotten frustrated with your spouse because they didn’t listen to you? Misunderstood someone? Been misunderstood? I have. We’ve all miscommunicated and misunderstood. As the poet said, “To err is human.” 

At the heart of most relationship issues lies miscommunication. Whether it is parent to child, husband to wife, spouse to an in-law, or friend to friend, missteps in communication have the potential to devastate a relationship. Big time.

Communication is an art. But, how do we improve it? How do we lessen the misunderstandings in our relationships?

In his book, Happily Ever After, Gary Chapman suggests that we can master the art of communication with these three tools:

The Art of Listening

If you haven’t already figured it out, you can’t read minds. And no one can read yours. That’s really a good thing. (Flashback to Mel Gibson becoming overwhelmed when he can hear the thoughts of every woman around him in What Women Want.

We can observe behavior, though. That starts with listening.

Dr. Chapman breaks down listening into five steps:

1. Ask questions.

Asking questions that show you’re sincerely interested in someone’s answers is far more effective than simply assuming you know why they do what they do.

2. Don’t interrupt.

We’re all tempted to jump in and finish someone else’s thoughts, but doing that is harmful to the conversation. Chapman writes, “The purpose of listening is to understand, not make a point.”

3. Clarify meaning.

We often listen from our perspective. Take the time to ask additional questions and understand exactly what they’re saying. Repeat it back to them if necessary. You can always say, “Let me make sure I understand what you’re saying.” Then tell them what you heard. 

4. Express appreciation.

Thank them for sharing. You don’t have to affirm what they said if you disagree. “You are affirming their humanity, the right to think and feel differently from other people,” Chapman explains. 

Now, this is important: You must complete these four steps to earn the right to move on to number five.

5. Share your perspective.

“Because you listened, you are far more likely to be listened to,” Chapman stresses. You haven’t interrupted, you’ve clarified what they said, and you affirmed that they have value. Now you may share your viewpoint.

The Art of Speaking for Yourself

A crucial practice when communicating is to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. 

“When we begin a sentence with you, we are speaking as though we have ultimate knowledge of a person. In reality, we have only a perception,” Chapman shares. 

“You” statements can come across as accusatory and may lead to arguments. They are based on assumptions. Assuming is dangerous when it comes to relationships.

Beginning a thought with “I” shows you are revealing your feelings and your thoughts. You’re indicating a problem without condemning the other person. 

Instead of saying something like “You never listen to me,” try saying, “I don’t always feel heard.”

The Art of Negotiating

If you’ve been in any type of relationship, you know compromise is king. We all think differently and have different experiences.

When you learn how to effectively negotiate, you can build bridges with others. 

“Making a proposal is the first step in the process of negotiating. The second step is listening carefully to counterproposals,” Chapman notes. “Remember, negotiating has to do with two people trying to understand each other and reach an agreement that both of them will feel good about.”

“A proposal opens the opportunity for dialogue,” he continues. “The process of listening, understanding, and seeking to find an agreement is the process of negotiation.” When negotiating, it’s essential to get into the habit of making requests, not demands. 

Your relationships are worth the effort to master the art of communication. We’ll all make mistakes and miscommunicate from time to time, for sure. But you have value, and the people you are in a relationship with also have value. Take the time to communicate effectively and show lots of grace. Remember, to err is human.

Sources

Happily Ever After by Dr. Gary Chapman

The Importance of Communication in a Relationship 

What Great Listeners Actually Do

How to Handle Narcissism in a Relationship

These practical tips can help you deal.

Narcissism is one of those words that people use a lot. Have you heard something similar to these statements?

  • He only cares about himself. Only doing what’s best for him. He’s so selfish. 
  • She is so into what she looks like. Did you see all those selfies? She’s such a narcissist. 
  • Did he really just take all the praise for that project? He didn’t even acknowledge those who helped him. 

While many of us may have narcissistic traits, it’s essential to recognize that there are levels of narcissism, and that Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is something altogether different. NPD is a legitimate mental health condition. According to Christina Gregory, Ph.D., “narcissism exists on a spectrum: On one side, it’s craving the occasional compliment. On its darkest side, it can creep into pathological territory.”

So, are you dealing with narcissism or Narcissistic Personality Disorder? 

That’s a great question, and being in a relationship with someone who’s a narcissist is not an easy thing to deal with. So, let’s take a look.

Some narcissistic characteristics include:

  • Having an inflated sense of self
  • Needing constant praise
  • Taking advantage of others
  • Not recognizing or caring about the needs of others.

On the other hand, NPD is defined by The Mayo Clinic as “a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they’re superior to others and have little regard for other people’s feelings. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

Let’s look at how narcissism, in general, can impact relationships. 

Studies have found that only about 1% of the population suffers from NPD. However, this number could be higher because many who have NPD never seek treatment. Researchers say it is challenging for those with NPD to truly build a trusting, equal relationship. If you believe you are in a relationship with someone who suffers from NPD, look for a therapist who has experience with narcissism. Narcissism at any level can be severe and is harmful to maintaining a healthy relationship. (Download: Step-By-Step Guide To Healthy Relationships EBook)

Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., lists some common traits of a narcissistic relationship partner that can exist at varying levels:

  • Sense of entitlement or superiority
  • Lack of empathy
  • Controlling behavior
  • Strong need for admiration
  • Focus on having their needs met while ignoring the needs of others
  • Higher levels of aggression
  • Difficulty taking feedback about their behavior.

Here are some practical ways to deal with a narcissistic partner.

1. See them for their true self.

Those with narcissistic tendencies can be incredibly charming when they want to be. They may draw you in with this, but when you see their lying and manipulative behavior toward others, recognize that they may do the same to you. Your needs are likely unimportant to them. To begin dealing with a narcissist, you must accept who they truly are and realize that you can’t change them.

2. Set clear boundaries.

Narcissists are often very self-absorbed. Their sense of entitlement may push them to disrespect your personal space. Set clear boundaries with consequences that you will carry out. Serious consequences that affect them personally may catch their attention. 

3. Recognize that it’s not your fault.

Someone with NPD or any level of narcissism will rarely take responsibility for hurting you. You may feel the need to accept blame, but if you’ve recognized they are a narcissist, there’s no need to blame yourself. Hold on to that truth.

4. Build a support system.

You need to surround yourself with healthy relationships. This relationship may emotionally drain you, so you need to have others you can lean on. This may be family, close friends, or those who share a hobby or interest. Don’t let this relationship isolate you.

5. Seek professional help when needed.

The person you are in a relationship with may need professional help. Narcissists often will not seek out help, but you can suggest it. And if you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, or health issues, get help for yourself. If you don’t know where to start, reach out to your primary care physician or support network.

**If you’re being mentally, physically, or emotionally abused, seek help immediately. You can reach out to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 800-799-7233.**

Being in a relationship with a narcissist is emotionally and mentally draining. For the relationship to survive and thrive, the narcissist must come to terms with who they are and be willing to overcome those traits. If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you need to take care of yourself first and find someone to guide you along the way.

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-deal-with-a-narcissist#move-on

https://www.psycom.net/personality-disorders/narcissistic/

https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1081&context=managementfacpub

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0103469

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/narcissism

https://www.psychalive.org/narcissistic-relationships/

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Mom, Here Are 5 Reasons Why You Should Be Celebrated

When it comes to celebrating motherhood, perfection is not the standard.

Parenting is difficult. Being a mother is especially difficult. Mothers often take or are given the responsibility for the success and/or failure of their children. So, mothers may feel disingenuous being celebrated. Mother’s Day, in particular, brings along its own set of expectations for moms. 

For some moms, Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate “perfect moms” who do it all right, all the time. The struggle comes when a mom believes she is the only one who seems to not be perfect. In her mind, she focuses on what she isn’t doing, hasn’t done, or can’t do. 

When it comes to celebrating motherhood, perfection is not the standard. 

Here are some reasons why you, as a mom, should be celebrated.

1. You are doing a valuable job.

Many people think for something to be valuable, it has to be worth something tangible, like money. However, you can’t place a price tag on being a mother. Motherhood is priceless. Throughout the years of motherhood, there’s a plethora of roles and responsibilities. Yet, the main goal is to raise your child to become an independent, responsible ADULT. 

2. Being a mother is hard work.

I am the mother of 3 sons. One day, my middle son asked me, “Is it hard being a mom?” I thought for a minute. My answer to him was, “Yes, it’s hard, but what’s really hard is being 3 different moms at the same time.” 

I explained to him that I have to be Mom for each of them. How I discipline, communicate, and interact is different for each one. Recognizing that I have to mother (parent) them as individuals, not as a group, takes time, energy, effort, and focus. 

3. You are the mother your children need.

As mothers, we worry about making sure that our children have what they need. Or are we concerned about what they want? We don’t want them to feel like they don’t have what all their friends have, from shoes and clothes to gaming systems and vacations. What our children need from us includes our time, love, attention, affection, presence, and guidance. 

4. You have endured.

Whether your children are toddlers, teens, or adults you have made it to this point. You may have survived things like sleepless nights, cranky babies, temperamental teens, tantrums, and many, many other things. You’ve made it past showerless days and puke-scented clothing. There is value in looking back and naming what you and your child(ren) have survived in your parenting journey. If you are honest, there could have been times you didn’t think you would make it. 

You are not alone. 

We’ve all had moments of fear, anxiety, frustrations, and anger. That doesn’t make you a bad mom. You are just a mom who is trying to “keep it in the road.” 

Remember, perfection isn’t the standard. 

If you survive, you have won.

5. You DESERVE it.

Moms can be some of the worst at accepting praise and celebration. We struggle with thinking that we don’t need to be rewarded or celebrated for what moms are supposed to do. Or the other thought process is that we don’t deserve to be celebrated. 

I had a friend lovingly confront me with this question: “Would you rather be tolerated by your family or celebrated by your family?” 

Please, please, please allow your friends and family to appreciate you. 

You definitely DESERVE it.

Other helpful blogs:

How to Celebrate Mother’s Day With a Difficult Mom

These tips may make it a little easier.

Whether your relationship with your mom is a tad problematic or off-the-charts unhealthy, celebrating your mom on Mother’s Day can be difficult.

She might get on your nerves or make you feel like she’s constantly judging you. 

Maybe you think your mom is a horrible parent, or you had a misunderstanding that seems impossible to overcome — and nobody wants to make the first move toward reconciliation. 

Perhaps the pain is so deep that you can’t forgive or move forward. Or maybe you feel your mom is toxic, and cutting her out of your life seems like the safest thing to do emotionally. [Read 4 Things to Know About Emotional Safety.]

It’s a tough road to walk. And it makes Mother’s Day tricky to celebrate.

But whether you choose to visit your mom or stay far away for the holiday, chances are you’ll be thinking of each other in some way.

Whatever your situation, thinking about these six things may make it a bit easier to find some way to celebrate a difficult mom on Mother’s Day. 

(Notice I said “may” and “easier” — not “definitely” OR “easy.” And there’s no excuse for abusive behavior. If that has happened to you, I’m so sorry!)

1. If you’re expecting perfection, you’ll be disappointed.

Here’s the thing: Nobody has a perfect mother. And nobody can be the perfect mother. But we all probably have an idea of what the perfect mother would look like. Unfortunately, our ideals often cause us to have unrealistic expectations that no one can meet. (Unless you’re married and your mother-in-law is perfect. That’s a whole other issue.)

2. Appreciate what you can.

There’s always something to be thankful for (at least according to Pollyanna). So, dig deep and think of what those things could be. Celebrate them, no matter how small. I recently went through some memorabilia my mom collected throughout the years. I found little love notes and cards I wrote my mom as a child. It reminded me that at one time, I thought she hung the moon. 

3. Celebrate your mom for who you want her to be.

She might surprise you and rise to meet the challenge. You may need to use your imagination. Maybe you can’t honestly tell your mom how great she is, but you might be able to write her a letter, or send a card or text to say you’re thinking of her on Mother’s Day. (Even if your thoughts aren’t that great, it’s a start.)

4. Time changes people and perceptions.

As a child, did you ever think your mom didn’t know anything? Did your perspective change when you realized being an adult was a little more… complicated? I can tell you from experience that I see things differently as an adult. I learned some things I didn’t know. My perspective has shifted over the years.

5. You may know your mom as a parent, but do you know her as a person?

Understand the things that shaped her life? Did a loss profoundly impact her? What were her parents like? Parents are people who have stuff they need to deal with, just like we do. Life throws all kinds of things at us, and sometimes we aren’t equipped to handle it. But trying to understand what makes your mom tick can be helpful, especially if she isn’t the parent you wanted or needed.

6. You’re not alone, and you don’t have to do this alone.

Many people have a rocky relationship with their mom, but not everyone feels safe enough to discuss it with their mom or a friend. If you need to talk, but you don’t want everyone knowing your business, pain, or struggles, a good counselor can help you take the space you need to stay positive and move away from bitterness and resentment. Forgiveness can bring emotional and physical benefits that are healing for the person who chooses to forgive, regardless of what another does. If possible, forgive your mom, whether she asks you to or not.

Things may not get better today or ever, but there’s hope that your situation will change. You may learn to navigate through the conflict or at least improve the relationship. One of you might take a step toward a healthy conversation and forgiveness. That may be all it takes. And one day, it might be easier for you to celebrate more things about your mom on Mother’s Day. I hope it is.

Other helpful blogs:

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6 Things You Can Do to Help a Child Who Is Grieving the Death of a Parent

Adults in the child's life are essential to help them grieve in a healthy way.

Death is often a difficult topic to discuss. It’s even more challenging to consider how you can help a child through the death of a parent. No matter what age, the death of a parent shifts your foundation. Therefore, it’s even more critical to find ways to support and help a child grieving the death of a parent. 

Parents provide safety and security for their children. After a parent dies, the child’s needs may vary according to their age, maturity, and personality. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to grief. These children have unique needs that should be met. 

Here are 6 things you can do to help a child who is grieving the death of a parent:

1. Be aware of your own grief and emotions.

It’s not easy to help a child through grief if you don’t acknowledge and work through your own. Grief is the process through which you deal with a loss. In this case, a friend or loved one died and left a child or children behind. Recognizing this allows you to process your grief so you don’t unintentionally make this loss only about you. 

2. Be careful how you communicate with the child.

Because people tend to be uncomfortable talking about death, they often use well-intentioned phrases that do more harm than good. Sayings like:

 “They are in a better place.”

“They just went to sleep.”

“One day, you will get over this.”

While you may mean well, think carefully about saying something just to say something. You may even need to listen more than you talk.

3. Be prepared for the child to express a variety of behaviors.

Children can display so many emotions after their parent dies, including fear, sadness, or anger. They may experience separation anxiety when away from the surviving parent or caregivers. Additionally, they may experience the following regressive behaviors, including using baby talk, bedwetting, or waking in the middle of the night. Stomachaches may become common complaints. Eating habits may change also. It’s essential to be aware of the frequency and intensity of any behavioral changes. 

4. Be age-appropriately honest with them.

Children often have questions after the death of a parent. How did it happen? Is it gonna happen to you? Is it gonna happen to them? First, talk with their surviving parent to find out what they shared with the child. That can prepare you to answer questions within the framework they’ve established. Honesty is vital. Your honest answers help rebuild trust and security. In your desire to help, consistency and reliability are essential, too. You want to under-promise and over-deliver rather than over-promise and underdeliver. Do everything you can to follow through with what you say you will do.

5. Be award that grief is an ongoing process.

Many people come around in the immediate aftermath. However, the kids will need you for the long haul. The hard truth is that a child never gets over the death of a parent or stops grieving their loss, though the experience of grief may morph over time. Kids may seem to bounce back from the loss. As a result, we want to believe that children are resilient and won’t be affected long-term. As comforting as this might sound, unfortunately, it’s not true. The intensity may lessen over time, but the parent they lost won’t be there for life milestones (i.e., Birthdays, Holidays, Proms, Graduations, Weddings).  

6. Be proactive in helping the child find ways to remember their parent.

Some people think that remembering a parent who died causes children pain. Attempting to minimize the pain, people often decide to remove photos or rarely mention or discuss the parent. On the contrary, remembering helps with the grieving process. Memories give a child a picture of who their parent was, what they liked, and how they lived. 

Losing a parent can be one of the most challenging things a child (or even an adult) can experience. The adults in the child’s life are essential to help them grieve in a healthy way. As you journey with them, be a listening ear, a safe place to land, and a consistent presence in their lives.

Other helpful resources:

6 Things You Need to Know About Grief

At its most ideal, the grieving process leads to growth.

Nobody likes grief. Or, at least I haven’t met anyone yet who does. Maybe it’s because we know grief is the process someone goes through to work through any kind of loss. And no one likes to lose things or people they love. 

Unfortunately, every one of us will go through it. And if you already have, chances are you will again. I don’t mean to be a downer. It’s just that life is full of losses, whether it’s a job, the end of a relationship, a kid leaving for college, or the death of someone you love. But, there is hope.

Fact is, grief is necessary. It’s what allows us to walk through all the emotions that come with a loss and continue to be healthy individuals. It’s painful, uncomfortable, sometimes dreadful. But in the long run, it does what it’s supposed to do: It helps you work through the loss

Here are some things you need to know about grief to understand this process better. 

1. Grief runs a course, but it’s not the same for everyone.

No one grieves in the same way. There are no predictable steps or stages. In general, the shock and emotions that come with grief should move from more intense and frequent to less over time. But the pace can vary from person to person.  

2. When a loss first happens, presence is the best support.

You may know what it’s like to feel the shock of a significant loss. You often can’t think straight. Things people say go in one ear and out the other. I can’t remember a single thing anyone said to me at my dad’s funeral; I put on a happy face, but my brain was a fog. However, I do remember who was there at my side. Presence is a strong source of support. 

3. Some people have a more complicated reaction to a loss.

The researchers call it complicated grief. It’s when strong grief responses – those intense emotions, the effects of shock – persist over a long time without letting up. More problematic issues can arise from this, like depression or a deep sense of loneliness. Lots of factors play into why this happens. A professional therapist or a grief support group can help a great deal with complicated grief. 

4. Emotional health before a loss can determine the grief process.

Research gives a strong indication that the more emotionally healthy you are, the less likely you are to experience complicated grief. Those prone to high anxiety, depression, loneliness, or unresolved relational issues often have a more challenging time with a loss. Staying emotionally healthy and being intentional with self-care is an excellent preventative measure for when loss hits. 

5. Grief may not go away.

What I mean is, years down the road, something may spark a memory of who or what you lost, causing an emotional response. This is normal and healthy. Don’t judge it or yourself negatively. It’s simply part of the process.

6. Grief changes a person, and that can be a good thing.

Going through grief usually causes you to consider your perspectives on life and death, your values, and what you put meaning behind. It clarifies what’s important and prompts different behavior on the other side of the loss. At its most ideal, grief leads to growth. 

You may be working through grief at the moment or know someone who is. It’s been helpful for me to remember that there is hope in grief. You can recover from a loss. The shock and pain aren’t forever. And even though things may never go back to “normal,” life will function again as you grow from your grief. 

Other helpful resources: 

4 Ways You Can Help Someone Who Is Grieving the Death of a Loved One

Your loved one needs you, whether they admit it or not.

At the age of 16, I lost my grandmother. She wasn’t the first loved one I had lost, but it affected me differently. My Memaw was my hero; I witnessed her long battle with diabetes and cancer. The grief was complicated. When my wife was 29, she lost her grandmother. They were extremely close growing up, but at the age of 12, my wife moved to this country and only saw her grandmother once over the next 17 years. Her grieving looked much different than mine. She is still grieving the loss.

When your friend or family member loses a parent, grandparent, spouse, child, or another person close to them, their responses may look different, and that’s ok. We all grieve for various lengths of time, sometimes with extreme emotions. Though the process varies from person to person, you can be a source of support and strength as you meet others where they are in their grief.

Here are four ways you can help a friend or loved one who is grieving:

1. Be present.

Be there, and be attentive to their needs. Remember, their grief may look different than yours. Maybe they want to talk about the loved one they just lost. Perhaps they just want to grab a drink and talk about anything else. Maybe they just need you to sit with them as they process. No matter what this looks like for them, be there.

2. Be helpful.

When grieving, it’s often tough to respond when someone says, “Do you need anything?” Many of us say it with the best intentions, though. But the grieving person isn’t thinking about what they need. Look for opportunities to serve them. Cut their grass. Bring them food. Pick up their groceries. Pay close attention to their needs, and don’t hesitate to meet whatever needs you can. If you’re not sure what they need, ask those closest to them. 

3. Be there for the long haul.

Grief doesn’t have a timetable. Some people grieve for a short period; others grieve for years. Again, there is no correct timetable. Be there for your loved one for the duration of their grieving.

If you live close, drop by and check on them periodically. Take them out to coffee or ice cream. If you live further away, mail them cards, call, or video chat. Be intentional about being there for them. They need you to stay engaged throughout their grief. 

4. Be mindful of the potential for depression.

It’s common for a grieving person to feel depressed or lonely. As you remain present and engaged with them, be on the lookout for any signs of depression. Grief may come and go depending on the people present or situation. Depression tends to be more persistent. Be aware of warning signs of depression. 

Here are a few warning signs to look for:

  • Their depression is not centered on the loss.
  • Difficulty performing daily tasks.
  • Excessive anger or guilt. 
  • Withdrawing from others.
  • Alcohol or substance abuse.
  • Talking about suicide.

If your loved one is experiencing signs of depression, help them get help from a counselor or the Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-8255).

Grief is an uncomfortable process, but it’s necessary. Your loved one needs you, whether they admit it or not. Walk with them through their grief no matter how long the process. Be there for them and love them as best you can.

Other helpful blogs: