Posting condolences on social media is NOT helpful, survey finds 

You may think you know how to be a supportive friend in a time of loss, grief, and devastation. 

But a new report suggests many of us - particularly in the era of social media - may be off the mark. 

Glaringly, the research, a special report by WebMD, found most people who are grieving find social media posts or messages about their loss to be either pointless, irritating or actively distressing - in fact, barely anyone thought they were a good idea.

Even offline, though, most people feel pressure to be cheery and breezy after three months, when in reality it takes vast majority up to a year later to come to terms with their loss. 

The survey of over 1,000 US adults found more than two thirds had grieved in the past three years - many for reasons besides losing a loved-one, including the loss of a career, of a friend, of possessions, of good health.

Many experienced symptoms that might not typically be associated with grief - some solely feeling anger and no sadness, some inexplicably tired, many developing physical symptoms, such as insomnia.

So you can you help a friend in need? And how can you give yourself time, space, and understanding when grieving? Dr Seth J Gillihan, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and WebMD contributor, spoke to DailyMail.com about the pitfalls we all have a tendency to fall into, and how to curb our somewhat unhelpful instincts.

The survey found some common gestures offered to many people experiencing grief: saying 'it could be worse', recommending that they move on, offering unsolicited advice on how to handle their grief, or posting on social media (file image)

The survey found some common gestures offered to many people experiencing grief: saying 'it could be worse', recommending that they move on, offering unsolicited advice on how to handle their grief, or posting on social media (file image)

'It's so common,' Dr Gillihan sighed. 'We all try to do one of two things.'

First, we spring into action. 

'We try to fix the person's grief, to take it away, either by minimizing it, saying "I'm surprised you're so upset!", or by trying to offer advice - "this was helpful to my aunt when she lost her husband,"' Gillihan explains. 

All of it may be 'very well-intentioned, nice things,' he says, 'but it comes across as dismissive.'

Second, we disappear.   

'We do too much but we also do too little. We show up right away, we say "I'm so sorry," "everything happens for a reason," "maybe you should read this book."'

'Then after a relatively short period of time, we disappear.'

The survey found some common gestures offered to many people experiencing grief: saying 'it could be worse', recommending that they move on, offering unsolicited advice on how to handle their grief, or posting on social media. 

Rarely were those tactics effective - making 46 percent, 42 percent, 33 percent and 41 percent feel worse, respectively.  

But, Dr Gillihan explains, slipping into these unhelpful approaches doesn't make you a ham-handed emotional amateur; even professional therapists are still developing

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