The loss of a loved one is a profound event in the lives of those left behind. People express their grief in a number of ways. Whether the outpouring of emotion is apparent for all to see or a mask is set and the grieving process is a private affair, there are ways to reach out and support those affected through this period. There are ways both large and small, verbal and non-verbal to offer assistance.
What to Say
At a time of heightened emotions and with varying levels of relationships, it is common to feel uncomfortable talking directly about death. This can be a difficult topic to approach conversationally during the best of times. The openness that is presented to a grieving person creates a possibility for acknowledgment and dialogue about the event and their emotions. The American Cancer Society offers suggestions to handle this talk.
- Address the loss. For example: “I hear that your_____ has passed.” Acknowledging the loss shows that you are comfortable talking about death and the emotions attached to it.
- Show your concern. Example: “I am sorry to hear that this happened to you.”
- Offer support. Example: “Tell me what I can do for you.”
- Ask how he or she feels. Don’t assume that you know what the person is going through.
- Be willing to listen
The grieving process is different for everyone and will take shape differently for each person. Offering an ear or a hug is a wonderful way to show that the person is not alone. Acknowledge their feelings and allow them to freely express them. Refrain from judgment and create a safe space to share. Support can be expressed with eye contact, a touch of the hand or a hug.
Those who have experienced loss have to overcome the great task of adjusting to the absence of their loved one. From initial arrangements to cooking, cleaning, financial arrangements, and documentation, there can be an overwhelming amount of tedious tasks to handle. Take the time to think about little things that you can do. If going to the store, ask if they need anything. When cooking dinner for your family, double the recipe and bring them a frozen meal. Contact them on an appropriate and regular basis and establish consistency in their lives.
You can even do the following:
- Help with errands
- Drop off meals
- Assist with arrangements
- Speak with guests and organize gatherings
- Take a walk with them
- Drive them or their children to places
The grieving process can be long and changes many dynamics. They may seem fine for a time and then become as emotional as if the event freshly happened. Sentimental items, songs, and special days can trigger a renewed sense of loss. Being there for them throughout this time and continuing to offer support as needed is of great benefit to their healing process.