In the face of grief at times we feel helpless. Wanting to support our friends and family members can result in us feeling hopeless about what we can do. or what to say. The greatest gift we can do is be present and listen to their needs. That may be, needing space to grieve, or to be with others. While being there for support, we want to offer support through words and actions. But what words and actions? Listed below are some ideas to offer your friend or loved one.
WHAT CAN I DO?
What do I Say or Not Say?
- Pick up the phone. People dealing with loss usually feel very alone. Connection to others is important with healing and restoration. Hearing a friend or family members voice is comforting. At the onset of the loss, those left behind can feel overwhemed with visitors, phone calls, and cards. However, after an average of two weeks, their lives become very empty. People simply disappear back into their own lives. They stop calling and visiting, leaving the person feeling abandoned and alone by those who said they would be there. This is the perfect time to call them.
- Anticipate the need. Someone dealing with loss will typically not ask for help. Knowing what they need, deciding who can help them, and picking up the phone to call someone are heavier actions then their motivation and energy level. Often the grieving is feel they are a burden to others. Anticipating needs with statements like "I will be at your house at 11 a.m. on Saturday to mow your grass" or : I will stop by after work on Tuesday and Thursdays to tahe your dog for a walk" take the pressure off of soeone who has little to no motivation. These kinds of actions of kindness will mean more to them and help keep hope alive and maybe help to get life feeling close to normal again.
- Be available for the hard stuff. There is always a lot of work to do when someone passes away. The work typically falls on the one grieving the most. Arrangements to be made, documents to sort, notification and calls to make. By offering to go with them when making funeral arrangements or drive them to appointments or making calls for others whom the grieving needs to notifiy.
- Make a meal and drop it off at their home. Many times grieving people do not eat much, have the energy or motivation to make food. Another reason they do not eat much as it may be lonely to eat alone and overwhelming to even make a sandwhich. People will think about food for the first two weeks typically but bringing food after the crowds of people leave and move on into their own lives again, the grieving can feel abandoned. Crowds go from helping to no one very quickly and the grieving are left on their own. Offer to have a meal whether in the home or outside of the home with the greiving person.
- Send a card. It doesn't matter if you live down the street or the other side of the country, it is a nice suprise to receive a card, hand written note or poem, or a written hello note in the mail expressing your care.
- Invite them. When the intial shock of loss passes, itis time to once again be invited to participate in social gatherings, a movie, dinner with friends while they have the option to say no. They may not accept for a long time which may turn you from continuing to ask them but continue to aks them again and again. One day they will say yes and you will be glad you didn't stop asking.
What we say or do not say really reflects our own issues. It is important to remember the loss is about them not us. Always think about how what you want to say would make you feel if it were you grieving. Our words are powerless to effect change for the grieving if we do not give silence in the middle of extreme pain.
- I am sorry for your loss.
- I don't know what to say but I love you.
- I can't imagine how you feel but I am here to listen.
- May I call you Wednesday?
- If you didn' t know the person well, you can ask questions about them, which prompts the grieving to share stories about the person. Sharing these stories can bring a sense of relief and a way to remember some good times.
- Give a hug and share your own memory about the deceased.
- Sometimes saying nothing but being there to listen, cry with them, and more listening is just what is needed.
- Everything happens for a reason. (Good and bad things happen because they just do).
- He/She is in a better place now. (The grieving may not share your view.).
- At least he/she had a good life. (People want the deceased around typically longer than they had-Forever).
- It was just their time. (How do we know that?)
- God needed another angel in heaven. (Your religion or theirs? Most feel they they need their loved one more than heaven-if they believe in that).
- You can always have another child. (This minimizes the value of the child that was lost).