When someone we know is hurting, our first instinct is to want to do something to make that person “ better”. Accept that there is nothing you can do to lessen their grief, but you can make the grieving process less isolating and help healing begin. A few ways you can do this
Reach out – Don’t avoid the person. Send flowers and a card if you haven’t already.
Call to check in. These gestures seem small, but are usually appreciated.
Act natural – Grief may be uncomfortable for you, but it is far worse for the grieving
person. Don’t avoid the person, fill silence with idle chatter, pry into personal matters, or ask questions about the circumstances of the death. Take your cue from
what the bereaved person seems to want to talk about.
Be present – Just check in on them and sit with them.
Be patient – Allow the bereaved to express the full range of emotions associated with grieving. Changing moods are normal. Don’t inflict your expectations for how fast they should move through the grieving process.
Offer comfort without comparing circumstances – Every loss is different. If you’ve had a similar loss, share your experiences, but don’t compare the experiences, give unsolicited advice, or claim to know how they feel.
Take action and be specific – Rather than saying “Call if you need me”, be proactive and identify ways you can help the person. Ideas include:
- Drop off meals or shop for groceries
- Help with funeral arrangements
- Stay with them to help greet and manage phone calls and guests
- Run errands or drive them where they need to go
- Help with paperwork – insurance forms, bills, thank you cards
- Take care of their children and pets
- Offer to take them out for a bit – on a walk, to lunch or a movie, or other activity
Keep in touch – Once the funeral is over and everyone goes home, the grieving person must face every day life without the flurry of activity – and without their loved one. Continue to call, visit, invite them to activities, send cards, and check in to see what other support they seem to want/need. Remember special days (birthdates, angel days, etc.) and offer extra support.
Watch for warning signs– Approximately 10-20% of grieving people will experience Complicated or Prolonged Grief, with extreme symptoms of grief lasting a year or longer. Grief can also evolve into clinical depression, substance abuse problems, or even serious physical illness. Warning signs could include difficulty with daily functioning, extreme focus on the death, withdrawing from others, constant feelings of hopelessness, excessive drug/alcohol use, and an inability to enjoy life. If you are concerned that you are seeing these symptoms, you must bring them up to the bereaved person and encourage them to seek help.