Monday, January 18, 2016
Supporting Others in Their Grief
I sit here wondering how to follow up my last post. I am humbled that something so personal spoke to many friends.
As I ponder where to go next, I can't help but land on the subject of grief. I am certainly no expert, but as I get older the topic comes up more frequently. I remember searching for the "answer" which I thought would come in the form of a book after my mom passed away. I sought out answers to what I felt and did not feel.
Chances are you have lost a loved one or someone you care about has lost someone close to them. I don't believe there is one right thing to say to someone who is dealing with loss, but often what's more important is acknowledging the situation. Even saying something as simple as "I'm so sorry for your loss and I don't know what to say, but I'm here for you if you need someone to listen" can be comforting.
Meet them where they are. Walk alongside your grieving friend. You don't need to have answers or even the right thing to say. Just being there for a friend in their time of need speaks louder than words. By "being there," I mean showing up. If they are the kind of person who appreciates a face-to-face visit, stop by and see them or setup a time if they wouldn't appreciate an unannounced visit. If they are more inclined to answer a text message, check in on them that way. A word of caution: don't hide behind technology, in this age of texting, there is a lot of value in showing up in person.
Gather some of their favorite things. Send a care package or gather things together into a small basket to deliver to them in person. Consider ways you can brighten your friend's day. Does your friend love a certain kind of coffee? Would s/he prefer an excuse to meet you for coffee and get out of the house? If so, consider arranging a baby-sitter (if needed) and take initiative to make it happen.
Look for specific ways to be helpful. Some friends may appreciate a meal they can stick in the freezer for later, while others may prefer an offer to babysit or walk their dog. If meals are the way to go, I recommend Take Them a Meal; it allows you to coordinate meal delivery with others. Depending on how well you know your friend, think about what s/he values. Look for ways to take away the pressures of every day to allow them to tend to their grief.
Make note of the anniversary of their loved one's passing and/or birthday. This may sound a little weird, but I try to remember the month/day when a dear friend has lost a loved one. I want to be sensitive to their situation in the future too. I still have dear friends who send a text message or call me on my mom's birthday (and she passed away over 14 years ago). I have another friend who often reaches out to me on the anniversary of my mom's passing.
Set a reminder in your phone to check in on them six months later. By following up months after losing a loved one, you show you are still thinking of them and their pain is not forgotten. About six months after I lost my mom, I remember thinking no one remembered the awful events I'd gone through. I wanted to be "over it" but I wasn't. There were days when the pain was just as strong as the day she passed.
These are just a few of the ways I've been supported by friends and family. Are there others you would add to the list?