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How to support people coping with grief

Hansen family
Courtesy photo
A group photo of the Hansen's following a pheasant hunting trip in South Dakota.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Friends, coworkers and neighbors of the Hansen family know how much of an impact they've had on Southeast Idaho.

Nine people representing four generations of that family were killed on Nov. 30 in a plane crash near Chamberlain, South Dakota.

Those killed were Jim Hansen Sr.; his sons, Jim Jr. and Kirk Hansen; Kirk Hansen's children Stockton and Logan; Kirk Hansen's sons-in-law, Kyle Naylor and Tyson Dennert; and Jim Hansen Jr.'s son Jake and grandson Houston.

That kind of loss can echo throughout the community. People may not know how to show support to the people affected by this tragedy.

Shelli Waterman, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in grief counseling, said that grief is always complicated.

Here are some things to keep in mind while the community heals, or in any time of grief.

Everyone grieves differently.

“Sometimes it feels frightening and scary. The thing to remember is that grief is a normal reaction to death and loss,” Waterman said.

Everyone grieves in different ways, so it may be hard to understand someone's reaction to a loss.

“There’s no right or wrong way to go through this. Some people may want to talk about their loved ones, some people will not. Some people may want to get rid of everything that reminds them of their loved ones, some people may not,” Waterman said.

Check in on each other.

Regardless of how people are coping, loved ones should check in on each other, Waterman said.

“Be willing to sit through the stories. Be willing to sit with the tears. And you may hear the same story over and over, but these people are trusting you with their loved and beloved memories,” Waterman said.

It doesn't have to be long visits, Waterman said. Sometimes, all someone needs is a couple of short visits a week to feel supported.

While reaching out during the early days after a tragedy can be really helpful, know that grieving doesn't end when the memorial does.

“Three months down the road, maybe they want to hear from you again. Maybe that would be a great time to send some flowers to say ‘I’m thinking of you in your loss,’” Waterman said.

Share memories.

A great way to show you care is to share memories of the ones we've lost.

“Feel free to share your memories. They may be funny, they may be sad, but new memories can’t be made at this point in time so they have to be shared. That’s how the loved one can continue to live on,” Waterman said.

Be careful when sharing memories on social media, Waterman said. Let family members know before posting so they're not unprepared when they open Facebook.

Seek help.

If grief lasts longer than six months or becomes difficult to handle, you can seek help from counselors or support groups.

Some other resources for help can be found here.

  • AARP’s Grief and Loss. Offers articles, discussions, resources and tools for coping with grief and the loss of a loved one.
  • HOPE for Bereaved, Inc. Provides hope, support and services for the bereaved.
  • OptionB. An online community that collects and shares stories of adversity to help people build resiliency and find joy.
  • Compassionate Friends. Grief support after the death of a child.
  • The Dougy Center provides a safe place for those—children, teens, young adults and their families—who are grieving a death to share their experiences. We do this through peer support groups, education and training.
  • National Alliance for Grieving Children. NAGC is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness about the needs of children and teens who are grieving a death and provides education and resources for anyone who supports them.
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Emma Iannacone

Emma is a reporter for Local News 8 and KIDK Eyewitness News 3.


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