Dr. Colleen Cira is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who specializes in Women and Trauma, and has worked with hundreds of people struggling with mental health issues.
Talking Points from Dr. Cira
On How to Help Others Cope with Grief & Loss:
We are all experiencing a collective trauma, which means to some extent, we are all experiencing some amount of grief and loss. Here are a few things to consider when trying to cope or help others cope.
- Grief can be big—like the death of a loved one—and grief can also be experienced due to far smaller things like not getting to interact in person with friends and family as much. Both of those things are in fact losses, as well as a million things in between, that can be responded to with feelings of grief. Just knowing that what you are experiencing is likely informed by feelings of grief and loss can be helpful because it normalizes and contextualizes those feelings, meaning it’s not just YOU feeling that way.
- There are 5 stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. These stages are not linear, meaning that we cycle between many of them with moments of each other, but it can be helpful to understand that there is a predictable, normal cycle that we are all going through. Figure out where you currently are with the different stages, which can help inform figuring out what you need.
- When someone is grieving, or experiencing any kind of intense psychological pain, and sitting in the darkness of those feelings, what they need is for you to sit in the darkness with them, NOT turn on the light. For instance, if someone lost someone they love, they do NOT need to hear you say “It’ll feel better soon,” “It was God’s will,” or any other version that is supposed to make them feel better. What they do need is for you to hear them out, uninterrupted, and validate their feelings. You don’t have to “say the right thing” or try to make it better. The best thing you can do is understand that you CANNOT make it better and just offer your presence and love instead.
Here are some practical tips for helping those who are grieving “big” and “little” losses:
- Send them a meal delivery gift card or a gift card for their favorite restaurant
- Send them virtual flowers
- Offer to connect with them via video and cry with them
- Send them text messages to let them know you’re thinking about them
- Check-in on them to see how they are doing and then really listen
- Offer to help them in some tangible way. If they lost their childcare, offer to read their kids a book via video every day to give them a break. If they lost their job, offer to help them look for a new one to reach out to your own network. Make them a meal, or two, or three.
During a pandemic, there is so much that we have no control of. But reaching out and helping the people who matter most to us in our lives—whether it be emotionally, financially, spiritually, etc., can have an amazingly positive effect and really make a difference to someone who is suffering in big and small ways. Bonus: Helping others is not only nice; It also makes us feel better, too.
Available for Interviews: Dr. Colleen Cira
Dr. Colleen Cira received both her Master’s and Doctorate from The Illinois School of Professional Psychology and is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the State of Illinois. She’s the Founder and Executive Director of Cira Center for Behavioral Health, PC, a boutique group practice specializing in Women and Trauma with locations in Chicago and Oak Park.
She was named one of the “Top 100 Women in Chicago Making a Difference” by Today’s Chicago Woman. Dr. Cira is a trauma and anxiety expert, clinical supervisor, writer, speaker, consultant, activist, wife, and Mommy to two little ones.
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