When someone you care about is grieving, it can be difficult to know what to say or do. We all worry about saying the wrong thing or intruding, and this can make you feel uncomfortable. However, don’t let your discomfort or concerns prevent you from reaching out and offering support in times of grief. While you can’t change the situation, take away the pain or replace the loss, there are many ways you can show you care and this can make a big difference in helping a loved one through a difficult time. Here are several “Do’s” and “Don’ts” to show a grieving loved one support:
- Provide a listening ear – While you may find yourself worrying about what to say, it’s actually more important to know when and how to listen. Many times, a grieving person simply needs you to be there, not to offer advice or provide answers, but to just be present and listen. Having someone to talk to, or even just sit with can help your loved one know he or she is not alone as the healing process gradually takes place. A reassuring hug or squeeze of the hand can speak louder than words.
- Take action – Instead of saying, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” say what you’re planning and when, then actually do it. A grieving person often does not want to burden anyone, or may not have the energy, motivation or ability to think of what’s needed to ask for help. Bake the casserole, shop for groceries, pick up kids from school and get them to practice, make and take phone calls, help with bills and household chores these are practical ways you can help that will allow your loved one to grieve without worrying about everything getting done.
Other practical ways to provide help include:
- Dealing with funeral arrangements
- Driving your loved one to anywhere he or she wants or needs to go
- Providing accompaniment to meetings, activities, support groups, on walks or to lunch
- Taking care of pets
- Reach out regularly – If you aren’t able to be with your loved one, let he or she know you care by staying in contact. Even just a text here and there, a phone call, a card or flowers can be comforting reminders that though the world is going on, you are thinking of them and will continue to offer support.
- Give the gift of comfort – A caring and thoughtful gift can help provide comfort and support in a time of grief. A basket of pampering items like bubble bath and scented candles, a favorite movie on dvd, a book your loved one’s been wanting to read — anything you can think of that might ease a little pain and bring a smile.
- Offer extra support on special days – Milestones like anniversaries and birthdays can intensify grief and extra support may be required on these special days. Make note of these milestones, and be sure to let your loved one know you care.
- Avoid the person or the subject – This is alienating and can make matters worse. Remember, it is not about how you feel, it is about the person who is grieving.
- Compare – Don’t claim to know how your loved one feels. Unless it truly is a fitting and appropriate comparison, resist comparing the situation to your own experiences, especially if they involve a distant relationship or a pet. If you know someone who has experienced a similar loss or who can provide professional support, you may want to share this contact information although it likely will not be beneficial at the moment, it could be helpful in the future. Remember to make the suggestion, not tell the grieving person he or she has or needs to do it.
- Judge – Understand that everyone grieves differently and for different lengths of time. Refrain from telling your loved one how he or she should feel or act, and don’t suggest a timeframe for the grieving process.
- Diminish the situation – It’s important to acknowledge how sad the situation is, but don’t say things like “at least ” or “it could be worse.”
- Bring up faith – not everyone shares the same faith, and quite frankly, grief can often leave people questioning it. Now is not the time to mention your beliefs.
- Turn to social media – even with good intentions, tagging a grieving person in a touching photo without a heads up can end up being painful. Respect your loved one’s feelings and allow them to share stories and photos on social media in their own time.
- Stop providing support as soon as the funeral ends – getting back to ordinary life can be the hardest part of grieving. It’s vital that you continue your support and stay in touch checking in, visiting or sending cards on a regular basis. Once the funeral is over, others go back to their normal routines, and your loved one is left to continue grieving alone, your support will be more valuable than ever.
If you have questions or need some additional help, please feel free to contact Sytsema Funeral & Cremation Services at 616-842-6100 in Grand Haven, or 231-726-5210 in Muskegon. For more tips and information on going through grief, download our free ebook. We want to provide as much help as we can.