Grief Week 1: Six Ideas on How to Support Someone During Grief
Lately I have found myself in a position of offering support to friends who have recently lost a loved one or a pet. I won’t lie, in some cases I felt anxious and awkward in this role as I didn’t quite know what would be helpful for my friends. Then it dawned on me that I can’t be the only one. This could be one of the reasons caring and helpful people may sometimes say unhelpful or minimizing things to those grieving. It could also explain why others avoid grieving friends and family altogether. Here is what I want to remind you of, your fear during grief is normal and not indicative of a personal problem.
I have found over the years, that by holding space for my friends or family helps me and helps them. When I hear of a loss, I will sit quietly and think of the person who has passed. If I knew them I will remember some great memories, their smile or something that they did that brought joy to the world. I then pass that memory on to the world by allowing it to flow on a big ray of golden light coming right from my heart. I then think of their family members and do the same thing by sending them love and light.
In the past, I would send cards or let them know that I was available for them or could help, but felt so helpless as I had no idea what they could help them with. I knew that my friends would be deep into grief and I felt useless. I found an article that held some great ideas that actually came from those who grieved and what helped them so I thought I would share there tips with you, so you can also expand in how you help someone grieve.
1. Offer practical support
If the loved one who has passed use to handle certain things around the house you could step in and offer to help out. Grief makes it hard to care about day to day life. How can you help them? What are your strengths? Could you clean their house, mow their lawn or weed their flower gardens? If you are not that talented, think about getting a gift certificate for this type of service that could be helpful to them.
· Help take care of their pets or kids.
· Help them sort through the loved one’s belongings or clean out the house.
· Teach them the tasks that their loved one did; finances, lawn care, laundry, cooking.
· Give them a place to stay if they don’t want to be alone, or offer to stay with them.
· Go with them to their doctor appointments, hair appointments or pedicures.
· Send meals or start a meal train for them.
· Help fix little things around the house.
2. Send something
Instead of sending flowers, think more outside the box of something that really would be helpful to them. Here are a few suggestions:
· Care box with self-care items.
· Food and home staples: pasta, rice, oatmeal, soup.
· Thoughtful cards, books, letters or remembrance items.
· Home cooked meals.
· Gift cards to use for practical needs.
3. Be there
The article expressed how much people enjoyed the heart felt love they got from friends and family “being there” physically and/or emotionally for them after their loved one died. Go beyond that “let me know if I can do anything for you” and actually set a time to visit with them. Be a supportive friend or family member by doing the following:
· Check up on them on a regular basis via phone calls or texts.
· Set up time every week or two to meet for coffee, lunch or walks in the park.
· Offer up a supportive “I love you” or “I’m thinking of you” on a regular basis.
· Share a meal with the bereaved. They may struggle to eat alone.
· Call just to talk and chat about daily things.
· Offer a real hug.
· Offer sincere and authentic words of support, encouragement and love.
4. Help them take a break
‘Grief work’ is the general concept where the griever works through their loss, no matter how difficult or painful the feelings may be. Many who believe in ‘grief work’ claim that you will not recover from the loss if you do not go through this process which can be several stages and confronting difficult emotions. It can be emotionally and physically exhausting, but it is a must for healthy grieving. In one method, Dual Process Model (DPM), contends that it is normal to avoid, deny and suppress certain aspects of grief. This is actually a healthy and very important part of grieving.
The DPM also says that it is okay to oscillate between confronting the loss and then also avoiding the loss. This model encourages seeking respite from grief. People will need time to feel normal and engage in regular activities to give them a boost of positive emotion and motivation. It can be very helpful to offer a distraction from their normal day to day activities and encourage a positive distraction. Never push someone to move on or to forget their loss as grief can come at any time and that is okay and expected. Here are some great ways to provide positive distraction:
· Share a joke a day.
· Take them out for a meal to their favorite restaurant or dessert place.
· Take them out to the movies, museum or an art gallery.
· Be their plus one to any parties or social gatherings.
· Take them on a hike or drive to another city to explore.
· Ask them about their hobby and if they are still doing it.
5. Be willing to be vulnerable with them
Be the friend who is willing to be present for the sad, sobbing and uncomfortable moments without trying to fix anything. You will need to be strong around fear, discomfort and not show judgement. When friends and family are willing to be vulnerable with them it can look like this:
· Sit in silence with them without asking what can I do, just be still with them.
· Talk about the person who passed away. Share their stories, memories and bring up their name.
· Be willing to be present for tears, anger and any type of outburst without judgement.
· Allow the bereaved person cry.
· Truly listen, without trying to offer advice.
· Accept their grief even when it is months or years later.
6. Remember with them
Grief is a forever thing and the best thing you can do as a supportive family member or friend is to understand this and support them during the next several years. Anniversaries, birthdays, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, graduations and weddings may send the bereaved into a moment of grieving. Support them by doing the following:
· Realize that they day of their loved one’s death will hold a special place in their heart. Reach out to them on that day.
· Send a card or call on days you think may be more difficult. Texting can seem selfish. Check in with a phone call so the bereaved can listen to how you are doing. They will most likely not want to text their emotional state to you, so take the time to actually call and talk with them. Be present with them and show them you truly care.
· Randomly check in on your loved one.
· Continue to share memories and talk about the loved one who passed.
· Acknowledge that it is okay for them to have happy days.
· Remind them that the loved one who passed is always with them.