As death is a part of life, so is feeling at an utter loss. This month of October we settle into the delights of autumn. Leaves changing, pumpkin spice everything, and thoughts of quickly approaching holidays. But for many people they begin to wade into the holiday grief and anxiety. Grief isn’t seasonal, and it can strike at any time. Do you know what to do when someone you care about is dealing with grief?
Sharing this blog post has been on my heart for a long time. These are my opinions, and everyone grieves differently – but my wish is to help even one person.
I have shared my story in small bits, I lost my brother 12 years ago. Dominic. He was 23. He was an artist, and incredibly handsome, and the funniest person I’ve known. He was also an enormous pain in my butt at times, as younger brothers often are. Then he died. And it has forever changed me.
The fog of grief is, in fact, not much like a fog. To me, the sudden death of a loved one is more like a house fire. Fogs lift and move out. The immediate throws of grief are more in line to a thick choking smoke, where you are crawling along just to find an exit. You are crying, stressed beyond measure, every breath is painful – and once the smoke clears, and everyone goes back to their life – you are left with the aftermath.
How Can You Help Someone Dealing with Grief?
1. Be Present and Listen
Sometimes just your physical presence is an enormous help and relief to someone grieving. And while some people may want to talk more than others, be available to listen. Most importantly be present (i.e. get off Facebook). Be attentive and listen to all the “things” this person is compelled to say. You can’t fix it, there is no fix for death, but you can be there to listen and love unconditionally.
2. Just Do It – Take Action
Almost every single person said, “please let me know if there is something I can do.” You know how many people I asked? None. Because you can’t. You just can’t. The people who helped the most, just made something happen.
- Show up with a meal. Breakfast, lunch or dinner. Store bought, homemade, it doesn’t matter.
- Make a pot of coffee or tea.
- Switch a load of laundry.
- Run interference; they cannot possibly answer all of the questions.
- Can I call anyone for you?
- Would you like help going through photos?
- What errands can I run?
- Can I call your priest, pastor, rabbi for you?
- Can I schedule your meetings for arrangements for you?
- Where can I drive you?
3. Choose Your Words
From this side of grief, I know people often times just don’t know what to do. Or say. So they reach for something they’ve heard (not realizing how it might make the griever want to jump out of their skin). From clichés, to downright stupid things. Less is more when you aren’t sure what to say.
- Don’t say, “they’re in a better place”. Well, of course we all hope to arrive in paradise when it’s our time. To the person grieving – together is the better place. Allow the griever to drive those thoughts when they are ready.
- Don’t grasp for comparisons. When someone loses a child, don’t say I know I lost my Grandma last year. When someone loses a parent, don’t compare it to your pet.
- Don’t make it about you.
- Do be refreshingly honest.
- Do say, I am so sorry.
- Do say, my heart hurts for you.
- Do say, I just don’t even know what to say.
- Do say, I am praying for you (and actually pray)
- Do say, I love you.
- Do say, something specific you loved about the person who has passed.
4. Share Memories
Tell stories and memories about their loved one gone. Funny stories. Happy stories. Say their loved one’s name. And don’t stop. As time goes on, and the first year passes – still tell the stories. Still say their name.
Twelve years later:
I can stroll through the card section at Target and see Brother’s Birthday cards – and the tears just start. Hearing a Dominic story or memory – fills my heart.
A big part of my brand is celebrating memories. Often times I get requests from people who have encountered loss and having something to hold on to helps their grieving process. The stories break my heart. But they also fill me with warmth knowing I can help someone through a hard time, no matter how little my contribution.
I’m curious, what has helped you deal with grief? If you want to share your story, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.