How can I comfort a bereaved person?

Much of the healing of the bereavement takes place in the warmth of family life and friendship. Yet the bereaved, in their distress, turn to or contact many other people. You may not know the bereaved person that personally but they may turn to you for comfort.

The most basic of human responses to those who are grief-stricken and distressed involves the offering of comfort and consolation. The appearance and behaviour of the bereaved person is usually such as to evoke caring responses from others: the head is lowered, the shoulders hunched, the weeping, the agony in all the body language … all this says “ hold me, help my pain – comfort me, I have been hurt”. The natural response is to hold, touch, murmur sympathy. When holding, the comforter may rock backwards and forwards, pat the back, murmur ‘there, there’. Darwin noted that the facial expressions of the bereaved are just like that of the infant who can’t find its mother. Although those are the natural responses, for some it may feel not feel comfortable to get so close – to touch, to become so personal. That’s alright – be true to yourself and your role – just provide a quiet and continuing presence, indicating the willingness to stay with the bereaved, and that will be helpful too.

Practical support is very important – in particular, helping the person see the body of the deceased (which may involve going with them, or helping the family understand the importance of it and even share this final farewell, or helping the person deal with their fears about the state of death and the body) and then allowing him to share his feelings about the experience. The body in death is rarely as bad as the person’s fears about it, and the fact of the death is more readily integrated when it has been seen and known, and farewells made.

Talking about Xanax

Xanax has been very topical recently – and with good reason. There seem to be many anxious people around, and we live in the age of quick fixes – so people ask for a quick fix whenever they don’t feel quite right. And that’s unfortunately how Xanax works. Quickly. It makes you feel good. It unfortunately does absolutely nothing for either the cause of the anxiety or your sense of control over your own world.

That means that once you pop a Xanax, it feels like there is nothing to fix – at least for the four or so hours that it is working. Then it stops working so well and the anxiety returns. So you take another … and the addictive process begins. That’s what all the talk is about. If it truly was the magic fix that meant you never had to feel anxious again, then I would say “go for it”, but that’s not the case, because as it wears off the anxiety symptoms will feel worse than they did in the first place, so it’s easiest to take another. Many people even forget what they were anxious about to begin with, once their need for Xanax kicks in.

While you are getting addicted to Xanax, the thing that made you anxious in the first place remains. It may not have been big enough to warrant your anxiety but that doesn’t mean that it is not big enough to face down. Every time you face the source of your fear, it makes it less fearful – and that’s a whole lot better than a quick fix that ultimately you can’t live without.

Psychologists don’t prescribe medication, although they often work with people who have been prescribed the pills without being given any strategies to help them effectively deal with their problems. At Armchair Psychology Practice, you can safely talk to Amanda or one of her colleagues about your anxiety,and about the medication that has been helpful or has made you feel worse. You will be assisted to confront your fears but with gentle support. We will assist you, in collaboration with your GP, to stop taking anti anxiety drugs as you develop the skills to manage your own symptoms.

Then Xanax doesn’t have to be feared – it can just be discarded.

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