When a loss hits a family, people are at a loss as to what to do, what to say, how to help. If you yourself have suffered a loss what did you most need from others? Think about how you wanted people to respond and ask yourself if that would fit in the current scenario. If you have not suffered a loss, ask yourself the same question, what would you like from others.
Here is a list of thoughts that might be helpful:
- Sometimes less is more. Don’t fill in the silences with chatter; allow the silence to happen.
- Do share touches with those who are grieving. You can: pat an arm while passing by, give a hug when it appears needed, hold their hand, sit close by, cradle them in your arms, stroke their hair. Always checking for the appropriateness of gender, age, and time.
- Make yourself busy – brew tea and coffee, make sandwiches, bake, tidy the place up (there will always be people dropping by)
- Let them know that you are there in their time and space, don’t force yourself on someone
- Offer to accompany them to appointments – coroner, funeral parlour, church, florist
- Ask if you can see the photo albums
- Talk about the person that has passed
- Offer to make phone calls
- Collect anecdotes
- Offer to do the grocery shopping
- Offer to prepare everyone’s clothes for the service – wash, iron, fold
- Let the grievor’s cry as it is a natural process
- Let them be angry as well
- Be there in the two weeks after the death when most others have left and gone back to their lives
The most important part is not to stop a person’s process. Sometimes because we are uncomfortable we feel the need to use humour when someone is crying. This actually stops their process and they will have to start again, plus they may feel that they cannot be real around you.
Validate their feelings don’t try to talk them out of their feelings. This is how they are feeling in this given moment and those feelings may change rapidly throughout a day, week, month or year.
Please don’t tell a person that things will get better, or that it is time to move on. Every person’s journey into grief is unique and personal.
Make sure that you are taking care of you. It is like a pyramid: the griever needs support and leans on you, You need support and lean on your family and friends and they do the same on down the line. We all have our place and role in this process.
Watch for isolation once the busyness of the service is over and people have left. It is a fine balance between hovering and “giving space”. If you feel that the griever is slipping into depression, then suggest they see their family physician.
Do call your local hospice and ask for advice on how to handle things.
Above all, Take Care of your self, Be kind to yourself, and Stay Safe!