Seven Ways to Help Someone Who Is Grieving
- DO NOT SAY, “If there is anything I can do, please let me know” or anything remotely similar. Instead, actually make an offer to do something. Or just plain do it. This can be anything. Stopping by for a cup of hot chocolate, bringing a quick snack from the supermarket, stopping by with a newspaper or picking up the mail for them. Anything that you actually do. After a while, hearing the words, “If there is anything I can do, let me know,” may become in the grievers mind, “I haven’t any idea of how I can help and really don’t want to anyway.”
- Understand you are interfacing with someone who may not be thinking clearly. I thank heaven every day for my husband who gently offered me guidance in areas I thought I was cognizant of. Every individual who is grieving occasionally needs this sensible help, making decisions. Something as simple as deciding where or when to meet for lunch is sometimes all that is needed and lessens that single straw of the burden of additional stress on a grieving mind.
- Anything can trigger an emotional response in someone grieving. I was watching a fun movie at the theater a while back, when one of the main characters died in a hospital, and the sudden despair that dropped on my shoulders was incredible. A texture, or smell or sound often triggers a memory which can trigger the grief. A dear friend of mine, grieving the loss of my twin sister as well, had moved forward enough that he had a new girlfriend and was experiencing some joyful times. But when he was given a pastry he had shared in the past with my sister, he was hit by a literal freight train of grief. Be Patient! It often just takes a willing ear, even for a brief moment, that can bring back composure and comfort. My husband reached over and put his arm around me, knowing exactly what had happened, and that was all I needed. Acknowledgment or a willing ear is what most of us grieving need, but it is often, unfortunately, the one item others tend to avoid.
- If someone grieving tries to tell you they are dealing with their grief differently, or something has changed-LISTEN. Listen to understand, not to respond. Read between the lines, Ask to meet with them for a cup of tea. Talk about it. They may just be reaching out for a shoulder to lean on without wanting to appear weak. Or may just need a friend. Or they may be slipping down the well of despair and need some help getting out of it. Lives are saved this way.
- Appreciate that someone grieving CAN function normally. Most of the time, those not close to me have no idea I am grieving. However, when evening falls and I am no longer wrapped up in day-to-day matters, the heaviness of grief is there, waiting for me. Those emotions I push away throughout the day are waiting, and rightfully so. They need to be felt and expressed before I can move forward.
- Tears. Those dreaded tears. Sitting in a staff meeting (or any other situation) and suddenly having them appear could not possibly be more inconvenient, difficult, embarrassing, you name it. If you are a person uncomfortable with another’s tears do not, I repeat, do not tell the grieving person to “get over it and move on.” You will not only likely remove any chance of friendship but if they have anything to do with working with you in any fashion, even something as simple as doing your laundry or keeping your calendar, you are in trouble. Find a way to gracefully and tactfully move on. But better yet, learn how to quietly listen and pass the tissue. Knowing how you deal with people who are emotional before you find yourself in such a situation can be a great attribute on your part. Above all, it’s not the grievers fault you are uncomfortable.
- Time DOES NOT heal. Unless you have a scraped elbow, time is not going to heal this. Grief is an entirely different state of being. A grieving person learns, if they are lucky, to live with the loss. It does not go away. Most recently, one of the biggest anxieties I had in dealing with my grief is the belief that, by a certain date, I should be passed the grief. This month it will be one-year since I lost my identical twin sister. I thought by now I would feel differently. But, as Sarah Parmenter of LifeHacker wrote: “Time lessens the sting; but for the griever, it’s almost a prison sentence without parole. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to get up each morning and hope something gives you a glimmer that gets you through the day.”
For me, those glimmers and shining beacons have been my beloved husband, my family, my friends and my faith.
(Thanks and References to Sarah Parmenter of LifeHacker and her Article “The Things No One Ever Tells You About Grief.”)