Go Gentle with Grievers
Death and grief are as much a part of life as living. If we, ourselves, live long enough, we will encounter loss and grief and so will people we love and care for. Learning how to be a good support system for a grieving loved one is a skill worth building.
Death is so personal and it can feel and seem awkward to be around a person experiencing deep and possibly private pain. A good tip is to take cues from the griever. Depending on their personality, they may benefit from talking about their loss. Some would rather have the burdens of daily living divided. Refrain from asking the person an open ended question like what do they need. Grief can be all consuming and drain energy quickly. Ask instead, “Would you prefer I bring dinner tonight or help you with housework tomorrow?” Or a similar type request based on what you know about this person’s needs.
Another way to help a griever is to touch base frequently. This is even more important at and beyond the six week mark. In my personal and professional opinion, a person who has suffered loss has a six solid weeks of support. Then life goes on for most people. This is not judgement as many people are not trained in grief support and can be at a loss. While the world moves on, the griever may feel stuck. This is not the time to expect a quality give and take friendship. The griever’s needs are more immediate and acute. It helps when you reach out by email or text, say your supportive words and then add- no need to respond. You may not always get a response but it may just be what your friend or family member needed to hear. With consistent contact, they will respond and with gratitude. You may be their unspoken lifeline.
Pets. Pets are like family to so many people. When someone loses a beloved pet, it can be a deep and impactful loss. A dog or cat or another creature will become such a sweet part of every day life. We give to them and they give back all that and more. There is no need to distinguish what loss is more severe. It depends on the situation and the person and there is absolutely no way to categorize how another human grieves. Even different deaths are grieved in different ways. I grieved the death of my Mom and Dad so uniquely that is was shocking to me.
A griever needs help, support and a judgment free zone. In time, you may be the griever and will be acutely aware of what helps and heals versus what is hurtful or less than helpful. A word to the wise. Never declare to know just how they feel. Rather, state you are there for them no matter what they are going through.