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Verified by Psychology Today

Lani Leary, Ph.D.

Lani Leary Ph.D.


No One Has to Grieve Alone

Validation is the key to resolving grief.

image of comfort by holding hands

The great healer of your grief is validation, not time. All grief needs to be blessed. In order to be blessed, it must be heard. Someone must be present, someone who is willing to “hold” it by listening without judgment or comparison.

As you grieve you need both verbal and non-verbal permission to feel whatever feelings arise during grief. Your personal way of experiencing your loss needs to be given consent and validation. The ways you “know” your grief should be honored. You need to be encouraged to express your grief in ways that are most comfortable for you, through words, tears, song, art, movement, or activity.

While grieving, you need a sense of a compassionate presence. That is a person who provides a healthy relationship and companionionship. It is the person who can “just be” with you in whatever way is helpful throughout your journey. There may be several people who support you with their ability to be present, and each may offer different aspects that are needed. The bereaved need:

. To be cared for through a sense of presence, permission, patience, predictability, and perseverance.

. To have their feelings acknowledged and their loved one remembered.

. To have their feelings and needs normalized.

. To be heard.

. To be seen and acknowledged.

How can we help the bereaved? We can each help those in mourning by learning how to be present without judgement or assumptions about their grief. We do not have to be professional listeners or health care practioners in order to show our support. We can learn what it means to follow the pace of the bereaved; to listen without trying to "fix"; and to give the bereaved our undivided attention without interjecting our own story.

Validation is a standard of care and an action that we can implement. Validation sounds like

  • supporting the bereaved's perspective;
  • listening "between the lines" for what is and is not said;
  • listening for symbolic language and what it means to the person;
  • asking open-ended questions;
  • clarifying what you have heard; and
  • asking to hear their story as many times as they want to tell it.

Validation looks like

  • direct eye contact;
  • gestures of affirmation such as nodding;
  • appropriate gentle touch; and
  • a posture of leaning toward, rather than away, from the bereaved.

You can use these guidelines to help another person feel heard, understood, and supported. Those who are working through their grief are more likely to feel heard when we do not try to change, fix, or interpret their feelings or experience. When we are present to their truth and allow for it to change and evolve is to support grief as the personal, dynamic, and vital process that it is.

If you love, you will grieve. You deserve a hundred opportunities to tell the story of love remembered and a person honored.