National Grief Awareness Week is observed from Dec.2 to Dec.8 to raise awareness and support those going through personal losses.

Many times, people genuinely want to help someone in grief, but a lack of knowledge about the process and uncertainty on how to communicate effectively can hold them back from offering support. This week, let's get some valuable insights from experts on how to help someone who is grieving.

Jessica Eiseman, a certified counselor and owner/clinical director of Ajana Therapy and Clinical Services in Houston, Texas, defines grief as a rollercoaster of emotions experienced by someone after losing something or someone important.

According to Eiseman, it is a completely normal experience that takes a person through stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

"Grieving is intensely personal, and no one should determine what is 'grief-worthy' for another. There are also many underlying layers of grief. It is also important to note that grief is not a linear process. We can think of it as waves that come and go. No two people will grieve the same way, and each person's timetable for healing will differ," Eiseman told Medical Daily.

Factors that influence grieving

A person's response to an individual's death may be affected by many factors, including the age of the person grieving, relationship with the person who has died, cause of death, cultural background and belief systems. An individual's financial situation, health, and extent of support from family, friends and community can also affect the response.

How is grief different from depression?

According to Jessica Rabon, a licensed psychologist from South Carolina, grief and depression may be difficult to differentiate because of certain overlapping symptoms such as extreme sadness, sleep difficulties, loss of appetite and irritability or anger.

"Grief is the emotional response one experiences after a significant loss. Although depression may also arise from a loss, depression most often is conceptualized as arising from a combination of biological, psychological and social factors. With grief, the emotional pain experienced typically surrounds yearning for the loss, preoccupation with the loss, avoidance of reminders of the loss, and potentially emotional numbness," Rabon told Medical Daily.

Although outward symptoms might look alike, the underlying cause will be different.

"Grief generally decreases with time or comes in waves, such as when the grieving person is faced with reminders of the loss; however, depression tends to be more pervasive and consistent over time," Rabon added.

One way to distinguish between grief and depression is that grief is linked to a specific cause and typically lessens over time, while depression tends to linger without a clear reason, Eiseman said.

"Depression often causes sustained emotional lethargy, difficulty concentrating, disruptions in sleep and appetite patterns, and a pervasive disinterest in activities someone used to enjoy. When it is severe, suicidal thoughts can accompany it. Unlike grief, depression does not always have a specific, identifiable cause, compared to the more clearly defined nature of grief. Depression is not just a case of the blues. It's a more prolonged and intense low mood that can impact a person's quality of life," she explained.

How to support a grieving person

It's important to note that grieving is a highly personal experience. What a person wants to hear or not hear while grieving may be individualized.

"When you are showing up for someone who is grieving, it is okay not to have the words and express that to them, sometimes being present is more beneficial than talking. As for topics not to talk about, once again that is highly individualized; however, there are often things 'not to say' to individuals who are grieving such as 'I know exactly what you are going through,' 'Just be strong,' or 'They're in a better place.' Although all these things are said with good intentions, they can be invalidating to the person who is grieving or minimize the overwhelming emotions they are experiencing," Rabon said.

Even if you are unsure how to talk, sometimes being there for the grieving person might be enough. Acknowledging a person's loss and having a conversation with them without putting down their emotions should be the key.

"When people grieve, they tend to withdraw and isolate, thus, it can be helpful to invite your loved one to activities that they will enjoy, understanding they may not come. Another way to support the person may be to help with tangible tasks. When individuals grieve, effort and energy to tasks such as cooking, cleaning or running errands often declines, thus offering to do something tangible for them can be helpful. Further, inviting the person to talk about the loss, sharing stories and even sharing memories of your own (assuming the grief is around the loss of a loved one) can be helpful," Rabon explained.

If someone who goes through grief needs additional support, getting professional help through psychotherapy and grief support groups can be beneficial. In some cases, when symptoms of grief disrupt a person's normal functioning, health professionals may prescribe antidepressants.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat at