How to Approach Someone Who Has Withdrawn into Their Grief

Friday, February 15, 2019
Dealing with the death of a loved one can be highly stressful and quite traumatic. People deal with their grief in different ways. Some allow themselves to process their grief, expressing their feelings and working through the waves of sadness while dealing with the rest of their lives.

Then there are people who just can't seem to release their grief, no matter how hard they try. While it does take time to process grief, they just don’t seem to get better as time passes. They lose focus in their job or daily life, and don’t seem to be aware as they keep withdrawing from happy or normal activities.

If someone close to you seems to be withdrawing into their grief, is there a way you can help? Here are a couple gentle ways to broach the subject with this person.

1. Use mostly “I” Statements.
As with most sensitive subjects, telling a person that “you” are doing something will put most people on the defensive. Making a statement such as, “I could be wrong, but recently I’ve noticed that you’re a bit more distant than usual, and I’m concerned about you” really focuses on how much you care for the person. At the same time, you can still voice your concern and get the subject out into the open.

2. Do Not try to Fix the unfixable.
When dealing with a severe loss, reminding them of the good times they had before, or will have again doesn’t really help. The pain itself cannot be made better. Sometimes simply acknowledging how bad it really is can help the grieving person move forward.

3. Invite and anticipate, don’t wait.
Instead of saying “call me if you need anything”, give them concrete times and activities that you can help with. “I’ll be over at 4pm on Thursday to help walk your dog.” “ What are you doing Saturday at 2pm? Let’s go get coffee.” Providing simple, small ways to encourage interaction and moving forward may be the best way you can show your support for someone who is grieving, and at the same time open the door to help them re-engage with the other areas of their life.

It is important to remember that people grieve in different ways, and sometimes they seek the solitude that allows them to process grief. However, these steps will respect the person’s grieving process and still allow you to approach them with your concerns, and hopefully help them re-engage with the important areas of their life.

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