When someone you care about is experiencing grief, it can be difficult to know how to respond. Grief is a universal experience, but it affects each and every one of us differently. How someone expresses their grief varies from one person to the next. Finding the right way to approach someone in bereavement takes care and attention. Ecorial is here to help by offering 3 ways you can be helpful and effective when checking in on someone who’s grieving.
It may feel awkward or uncomfortable approaching someone in grief, but it’s important to make your presence known. Even though it may feel more appropriate to leave the bereaved to their grief, it’s actually the worst thing you can do. Many people think, “Well, I don’t want to remind them of their loss by reaching out.” Don’t worry. They don’t need your help remembering their loss. It’s with them each and every day and most waking moments. So reach out! It’s ok if you don’t have the words. It’s not about what you say. Just showing up is a huge gesture. One that they will remember in time.
How are They Feeling?
When you make contact, avoid asking how they’re doing. Since they’re in grief, they aren’t doing very well. Asking how they’re feeling is more to the point as well as more thoughtful. With an abundance of emotions pouring through them, you may be surprised at which feelings present themselves on any given day. There is no rhyme or reason to grief. One moment, someone may be lost in sadness, and another laughing over a joyful memory of their loved one.
Keep it Up
By continuously reaching out, you send the message that the bereaved is not alone in this. You’re there to support them in their difficult time of need. Use your best judgment and trust your instincts on how often you need to check in. Depending on where the bereaved are at in their grief process, it could be daily to every few weeks or so.
There are a variety of thoughtful ways you can support the bereaved. Consider some of the following ideas:
Help with Tasks
Life after a loss is a whole new world. It’s unchartered territory for the person experiencing loss, particularly if it’s someone they lived with. How they acclimate to a new routine may take time. While their hearts and minds are preoccupied as they cope with grief, you can help by removing some extra burdens from their to-do list. Perhaps they might appreciate one of the following:
- Check the mail for them
- Help handle bills
- Escort them to do errands
- Help with some housekeeping chores
- Make phone calls on their behalf
- If a pet is involved, offer to help with a walk or other valued care
Make Plans to Do Something They Enjoy
Whatever their interests may be, proactively inviting them to do a beloved activity may help give them a break, however short, from the trauma of their grief. Some ideas could be:
- A short walk
- A meal out
- Catch a movie
- A card or board game
- A car ride to a favorite spot
Space if Needed
If they are reluctant to join you in any activity, it isn’t personal. The grief process is delicate and needs to be respected for each individual case. When attempting to make plans, leave it open-ended. They don’t need the pressure of committing if they aren’t sure they want to do it. Give room for them to change their mind as well.
Send a Treat
If physical distance prevents you from showing up, you can always send a nice treat. One of the biggest challenges the bereaved face is managing meals. They may not have the energy or desire to cook anything for themselves. By sending a gift card to a favorite local restaurant, they’ll be encouraged to order in for a favorite meal. Or if you know what they like, you can order it yourself!
Talk with Them
Simply being present and offering your ear is a wonderful way to support those in grief.
Don’t worry about filling the silence. It isn’t about you. Your stories of personal grief are not necessary and are rarely helpful. You may understand grief, but not the exact version they are enduring. If you do speak, make sure it’s about them or the departed.
When asking them questions, it’s more helpful to be specific. “Do you want to talk about it?” is too general of a question. Yes, they probably do, but where do they begin? For instance, consider a finer detail about the person they lost, such as “Did you have a favorite activity or routine together?” That may help open them up to a conversation more easily.
Name the Departed
It’s helpful for the bereaved to hear others name their departed loved one. It reminds them that others were impacted by the departed’s life as well. Naming them keeps their memory alive.
In this case, sharing your own story about the departed can be quite touching for someone experiencing loss. A positive story may also be a new story for them. Celebrating the life of the departed can be a soothing balm.
Create a Safe Space
As the bereaved absorb and process their loss, it’s nice to let them know that they can feel free to react however they need to. Surrendering from judgment and expectation can be a very soothing tonic to the bereaved’s grief experience.
Grief can be challenging. By offering your time and support, you can make a big difference in the well-being of the bereaved. Whichever way you choose to reach out, you’ll be honoring not only the bereaved but their dearly departed loved one as well.
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