Losing a loved one is something sadly nearly all of us will have to go through in life – yet, our culture shies away completely from talking about death. This is one of the reasons, IMO (please note, I’m not a grief counsellor) that we find it really hard to know what to say and how to help someone through grief. It’s easy to feel awkward, particularly when you haven’t experienced grief yourself and then end up not doing anything at all even when that isn’t your intention.
After my Dad died, I appreciated knowing people cared. There were people who reached out to me who I hadn’t spoken to for a long time but knew how much pain I would be in because they had suffered their own losses too. In my experience, there isn’t really a right or wrong way to be around someone who’s grieving. The best thing you can do is to show up and just be there. Everyone deals with grief differently and it doesn’t run to a timeline. It can be quite a lonely experience so being there for someone can make all the difference.
How to help someone through grief
Don’t worry about the message
Send a card, phone or text to let the person know you are thinking about them. There are no real words of comfort, which really make grief easier in the initial stages. I know I’ve poured over words that I’ve written to other people, desperate to find a way of giving them some comfort. But I know from my own experiences, the early days of grief are a bit of a blur and it’s too soon to do anything other than put one foot in front of the other. Just knowing someone cares helps.
Think of how you can offer practical help
Don’t ask or wait to be asked. Make food or buy groceries. It’s easy to forget to do basic tasks like eating or shopping when your world feels like it’s falling apart. Anything you can do to make life easier will help.
Please don’t worry about making someone cry
Honestly, really don’t worry about making someone cry. You can guarantee people are upset anyway and it’s nothing to do with your words. It really helps to be able to process emotions and tears are part of that.
Don’t be afraid to ask how they’re feeling
Talking really does help with processing what’s happened. Just be patient if someone isn’t ready. Keep going past the first year at the very least. Loss never really goes away although the pain does get easier. It’s always appreciated when people check in to see how you are.