You can’t catch grief from someone else. Grief is not contagious. You do not have to wear a proverbial mask and avoid contact with someone who is grieving. Grief can be a very lonely place. Avoiding someone who is in the throes of grief is more of a coping mechanism for you, it’s not for them. Leaving someone alone in the name of grief is likely more out of your discomfort rather than their need for comfort and connection.
If someone you know or love is grieving and you do not know if you should reach out to them or know what to say when you do, do it anyway. Often our own discomfort and not wanting to upset someone by saying or doing the wrong thing can keep us from reaching out and helping someone who needs us.
You Do Not Have to Fix Anything
A little encouragement for you is that you don’t have to make them feel better. You don’t have to solve their problem. It is likely an impossible task and not even something they want or need. Simply being there, showing up and reaching out speaks volumes.
So often we get insecure about how to approach someone who has experienced loss. We do not want to upset them or contribute to their pain. As a result we treat grief as it is contagious and grief is not contagious. It is a rare occasion where reaching out to someone and being available as an empathetic listener has made a negative impact.
Being sensitive and empathetic is important. No matter how awkward you feel sometimes you have to just settle into the awkwardness and just be available. It may even be awkward for them as well. We all need human connection. Whether it is a time of joy or sorrow knowing there is someone who loves and cares and connects with us, it makes life feel a little more bearable.
Grief Is Not Contagious But Love Is
The connection and love someone had with the person who died is what creates the profound feeling of loss. The talks they had, the acceptance, life they shared. Having that connection and losing it the next is one of the hardest parts of dealing with death. You may not be able to fill that gap of lost love but you can show love in your own way.
Be A Support System
Being available to someone as they grieve is one of the most valuable things you can give. Even if you do not know how to approach them and chances are they are unlikely to approach you. When someone experiences a loss so often people will say “let me know if you need anything”. How often does that person call you up and say hey I need someone to make me a lasagna because I just don’t have the energy to cook for my family. Some people may but most people won’t. Don’t be afraid to check in more than once or specifically ask if you can bring food or come by to listen. Whatever they say respect their needs but at least now you know you are being a good support system.
Reach out for further grief support or advice on how to be a part of a strong support system.