Following a death people come out of the woodwork with words of condolence and offers of help, but through no fault of their own, aren’t anticipating needs of the grieving. Many also feel paralyzed not knowing what to say or not say. The same goes for what to do or not do. So for the next couple of days I’ll focus on what Good Grief Support looks like.
Particularly in first couple of years, otherwise known as The Haze, those in grief need their support network to be equipped and just show up. Many times those grieving don’t know what they need or want and certainly don’t have the time, energy, or capacity to clearly articulate it. Merely putting one foot in front of the other and surviving day to day is no small accomplishment. This means anticipating their needs.
Especially in the early days, there are plenty of tangible ways to help. First and foremost, don’t ask if they need help. They do! Some people find it hard to accept help and feel like a burden and will say no. So offer something specific in a specific time frame…in a respectful way that doesn’t overstep boundaries or their privacy. That’s a delicate and hard balance to navigate I know. Below is a list of tangible things you can do:
- Send periodic messages simply saying you are thinking of the person. DON’T EXPECT A RESPONSE
- Drop off meals or gift certificates to nearby and/or favorite restaurants. No visit necessary. The meal train always stops soon after the funeral. A few meals a month through the first year would be nice. Believe it or not, some days getting out of bed is still hard…even a year later.
- In the beginning mundane tasks are awful. Cleaning, grocery shopping, mowing the lawn. Either step in and do it for them (without expecting them to visit with you) or hire someone to do it. Do make sure the offer is welcomed and time is convenient for them.
- Compile a book of memories or stories of their loved one from people who knew him/her and give it to them.
- Mention their loved one’s name. Share the memories you have. There isn’t a single thing the grieving person treasures more than knowing their loved one is remembered.
THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO…SHOW UP. Be consistent and continue to hold space for the grieving. Tomorrow I’ll delve into what that means.
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This is the ninth installment in a series of articles based on, “Good Grief – Embracing Life and Giving Good Support” a talk I gave on May 22, 2019. You can get caught up by starting with the introductory article here.