Sunday August 30th was National Grief Awareness day. Grief comes in all forms and happens when there is a separation or change from something familiar. We all know someone who has lost a loved one and perhaps you might remember to spread kindness today by taking a few minutes to reach out to a friend who has lost a loved one, especially during these unusual and uncertain times.
At CCMI, Kim continues to study how we can help those who have lost a loved one by talking with friends and clients who are going through it. Here are seven tips that may help in supporting those going through the grieving process.
Everyone’s journey is different. The grief from losing a loved one affects everyone differently, and one day can be very different from the next.
Reach out! This is a time where the person grieving wants to hear from you. We all have busy schedules but it takes seconds to send a text or minutes to pick up the phone and call. Even a handwritten card to your friend would likely be an unexpected and much appreciated gift. While you may not always know what to say or do, it is worse if you don’t reach out at all. Know that it’s not about you, it’s about the person who is grieving. Sometimes it’s just the act of kindness to reach out and check in on someone that can make their day!
Don’t feel like you need to cheer them up. Just listen and be compassionate. Remember that your only job is to be a friend as you always have been, not to try and cheer anyone up. You can’t fix what has happened. Ask thoughtful questions or share stories about their loved one. Know that a friend who is grieving may not want to go out and do something fun or go out for coffee. Let them decide what they want to do and when. You can also agree to check in at a later date if that works better for them. Don’t assume things will be better on that future date, ask again at that time if they are up for getting together and let them decide. Continue to check in from time to time even if they prefer not to go do anything fun.
Mention their loved one’s name. Sometimes people think that they should not mention their loved one, when in fact the opposite is true. Talk about memories and tell stories about the person who is no longer here. They want to know that their loved ones made a difference in the world and they want to keep their memories and legacy alive.
Avoid certain phrases. It’s common to say things like “I’m sorry,” “he/she is in a better place,” or “time heals all wounds” but try to avoid saying these phrases. While saying “I’m sorry” is often automatic, it makes it about you and not them. What should their response be? Thank you? Additionally, saying things like “he/she is in a better place” and “time heals all wounds” can come across as unsympathetic. Instead, be a friend like you always have been and don’t feel like you need to say anything profound to lighten the situation. Don’t overthink it!
Avoid comparing to your own story. Be careful when bringing up your own story unless you think it would be helpful. For example, other widows may be able to share what has helped them as they experienced a similar loss. Listening is of utmost importance and sometimes, the honesty of admitting that you don’t know what they are going through is appreciated. You can ask them what it has been like for them. Saying things like you know how they feel because you experienced something similar will likely not be well received and it turns the conversation to you instead of them.
Ask how you can help. Often, people who are grieving don’t want to be a burden on others. Additionally, because everyone grieves differently, it’s hard to know what would be helpful to them unless you ask. You can say something like “I’d like to help, what would be helpful to you” or you can offer something specific like getting groceries or taking them out to lunch.
If you want to know more about how you can help friends that are grieving, including more ideas about what you can say or do in these difficult situations, please contact CCMI. We know that it’s not always about the numbers and we are happy to help.
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