When someone is grieving it’s very hard to know what to say or do. Feeling inadequate, powerless or uncomfortable is something I suspect most of us struggle with when faced with someone else’s grief. Here are some tips.
I realize I touched on it before, but it bears repeating when so often grief comes as a shock and we’re not sure what to do.
Tell people that you genuinely care but that you feel awkward or inadequate to help them in their time of grief. They probably feel the same. Just recognizing their pain is a comfort.
Encourage them to be patient with themselves. Talk about their loved one – say their name –it’s nice to hear it from others not just inside ones own head.
Be available to help and be proactive. Most people won’t ask for help. Run errands, get groceries, pick up the kids, anything that requires effort can be almost impossible to do. If you’re turned down, don’t push but be firm – they might just swallow their pride and accept. It will be appreciated.
If anyone depends on them (i.e. children or a senior) pitch in and help. Show them special attention, make time for them as the person grieving might not have it to give.
Reassure them they did everything possible. The “what if’s” can be worse than the grief itself.
Let them talk and talk and talk. Encourage them to keep a journal if they can’t talk, they need to get their grief out.
Due to the feelings of isolation, try to make sure they aren’t alone through the grieving process.
It’s not about you, it’s about them. Regardless of how uncomfortable you are, don’t let that stop you from reaching out. No one likes hospitals, death or grief – get over it and help someone else. Next time it might be you.
Unless you know how they feel, don’t say “I know how you must be feeling”. With the death of a child, don’t say “well, at least you have the others”. The loss of one child does not increase or decrease the love a parent has for the other children.
In the case of a miscarriage or stillborn, don’t say “you can always try for another one”. This minimizes their loss and is hurtful.
Don’t change the subject if they speak of their loved one. If the death is sensationalized for whatever reason, don’t try to become that persons best friend – respect the relationship you had before the loss.
Don’t forget that person. Grief doesn’t end after the funeral. It’s the months and years ahead when a good friend is the greatest gift. Anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas, etc…continue to be difficult – try to remember these.
The best thing to remember is that unless you can bring back the person who has passed away, your sphere of influence over their feelings is limited.
A good friend is someone who is present.