There was a time that I was mad, no furious, at cancer. It might sound silly, but when my father died of brain cancer, so many of my thoughts were of the cancer that had just taken his life, laughing at me. I was angry at this non-being, picturing it taking a victory lap while I collapsed on the floor crying. I had already lost my husband, my dog, been through the school shootings in Chardon (as one of the school psychologists) where three innocent lives were taken, and my family was falling apart. Then, my father, my hero, my rock, was gone. I was angry because I was in so much pain.
Unfortunately, I know grief. I’ve felt it to the core. I also know it’s hard for people to love or be around someone who is grieving. You don’t what they want, what they need, or how to make them feel better. Many times, their actions may confuse you, like when they disappear or cut themselves off from the world. You’re scared to say something wrong, yet scared to say nothing at all.
Grieving is a process and everyone grieves differently. Some people grieve for a month, some for years. Just extending a hand, even if it may not seem like it at the time, makes a huge difference and will not be forgotten. It can be frustrating to feel as though you are just being pushed away and shut out, over and over. It takes courage to love someone who is grieving. But, trust me, as much as someone wants to be alone, deep down they want to be with people. It’s not so much about wanting to talk as it is just having someone in the room. It dulls the pain of loneliness. The person just may not have the strength to say it. People who are grieving need people to build resilience.
Here are the best things to do for someone who is grieving:
1. Prepare a Healthy Meal
Nutrition is so important when going through depression and loss. But, it’s something that’s often put on the back-burner. Many people even forget to eat. Because of the loss, the mind and body feel abandoned, it’s an emotional mess, and hormones are out of control. A healthy meal not only nourishes the body, but heals the spirit. In times of need, we used Perfect Potluck, Take Them a Meal, and Meal Train~ all websites where you can coordinate times to take healthy meals to someone or to a family.
2. Send a Card or Hand-Written Note
I still have every card that was sent me after my sister died. We tend to minimize things like this, but to the receiver it could mean so much. To know that someone is thinking about them and praying about them…well, it could get them through that moment, that hour, that day.
3. Understand Their Perspective
When someone close passes away, it can, literally, change the way the world looks through their eyes. Understand this and empathize with it. Everything in life now compares to what they are going through. Be careful what you say and/or complain about around them. Everything seems incomparable to their circumstance.
4. Keep Inviting Them
Don’t assume that they don’t want to be a part of anything. Let them decide if they are up for a crowd or a party. No one ever loses that need to be wanted. Don’t leave them out…but don’t get hurt if they say no. It’s about the gesture and knowing people are thinking about them.
5. Be There (if needed)
But don’t be overbearing. Understand if they need space. Sometimes they want to talk about so-and-so’s life. Ask them about it. As someone who is grieving, their greatest fear may be the fainting memory of that person. Talk about their life and let them cry, laugh, scream in anger…whatever they need to do.
6. Be Yourself
Don’t change yourself for your friend or loved one who is grieving. If you have always known exactly what makes them laugh, keep it up. If you are the person that always gives them lots of hugs…don’t stop. Be yourself. That’s who they love!
7. Just Listen
Just sit and listen. Look them eyes. Don’t offer advice. Don’t be afraid of their grief. Listen and love.
8. Provide a Safety Net
There is a time to be selfless, and when helping someone who is grieving, now would be that time. Knowing there is someone who will always be there they can rely makes a huge difference. People find the strength and courage needed to walk across a tight rope if they know there is a net to catch them if they fall.
Remember that grief has no timeline. Be patient. Be loving. Be kind. They need you to pull through, and believe me, they will.