How To Help Someone Who Is Masking Grief

Masking grief is subtle and complex. For many people, the act of grieving never truly ends. To move forward, one may try to hide their grief and mask it, but what this does, unfortunately, is only slow down the process of healing from a loss.

Each person will ultimately grieve in their way and take however much time is required to get further in their healing. Yet, masking can pose a challenge as it does not truly acknowledge their present state.

Here is how to help someone who is masking grief.

Don’t confront directly

Grief is complicated. It hurts. It lingers. It may leave for a bit and then return. It is not necessary to confront someone about how they are grieving, and it will likely only make them feel like you aren’t giving them the space they need to process what is in front of them.

To help someone who is masking grief may not even involve having a conversation with them. They may not be ready for a conversation. That’s okay. As their support person, avoiding direct conversations about grief may be more beneficial.

Advocate for them to attend grief counselling

You can’t do all the heavy lifting yourself to support a person. If they have progressed to masking grief, they likely need to talk to a mental health professional. There are different forms of grief counselling. Try gently encouraging them to see someone and receive help.

If you are noticing signs of depression or anxiety or interference with other parts of your daily life, counselling is something that can help in a major way. Don’t be concerned about budget. Affordable grief counseling is available, ensuring everyone receives help when needed.

There may always be grief

You mustn’t expect someone to ‘get over’ grief. For some, grief will be here to stay for the rest of their lives while they struggle to manage the reality that someone so integral to their life is now no longer there and is gone.

To this point, if you try to pull someone forward and get them to move on from a traumatic event or their past, this could very easily backfire and have the wrong effect. Moving forward will happen organically over time and cannot be forced, especially during the initial stages of grief.

Listen and acknowledge their grief

With someone masking grief, it’s important to listen. Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing – simply listen. Don’t change the subject if they have voluntarily brought up their grief. Acknowledge it. Acknowledge the loss.

Make it so that the person feels like they can talk about it if they want to, and ensure that you aren’t indirectly communicating to minimize or ignore their loss. Simply being there, accepting them as they are, and listening may be all the support, comfort, and healing they need.

Allow them to have extreme unpredictable emotions.

Encourage a person to feel their feelings. This may involve over-the-top emotions, extreme emotional responses, and unpredictable wavering between moods.

Eventually, there will be some stabilization, but following a major loss, a person is likely to feel empty and numb. Then will come feelings of guilt, anger, despair, and fear. Reassure them that it’s okay to feel those things. Do not judge them. Do not take any reactions they give to you personally.

Let someone work through it on their timetable.

As mentioned earlier, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. To this point, do not try to force someone through grief quickly. The reason a person masks is to survive. It’s an unhealthy survival skill, but a survival skill nonetheless. It aids them in completing the day-to-day tasks that are required of them after such a major loss.

For some, they may require more time than others to slowly unmask. Allow them that time, and never tell someone grieving what they ‘should’ be doing or feeling.

Do what you can to help look after their physical health

Grief makes an impact. While a lot of it is emotional or mental, masking grief and processing grief can present physical symptoms as well. Anxiety attacks. Health issues. A lack of exercise. Eating poorly. Navigating life as a support person to someone masking grief, do what you can to make sure they’re looking after themselves physically. Cook them a meal. Try to get them to engage in physical activity if they aren’t already. Ensure they are getting enough sleep.

Don’t stop lending them support even weeks or months after

Provide ongoing support. Be there for the long haul if this person matters to you. Periodically check in, drop by, and don’t make assumptions based on outward appearances that they are all right. Masking grief deceives a lot of people by making them think that everything is alright when, internally, things are still incredibly unstable.

Support can also come in many ways, such as running errands with or for them, spending time with them at home, taking care of housework, or going out with them, such as going to a movie or walking.

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