Grief is one of the hardest things that people go through in this lifetime. It manifests differently for each person and for each occasion. When a person is grieving, the natural thing for friends and loved ones is to want to help the person overcome that grief and “get back to normal” or as normal as things can be for them. But how? How can we best help people who at times do not know what kind of help they may need?
Here are a few ways you can help them:
- Be there for them. Just be present and available to them. You do not need to know what to do or say, just be there. Loneliness and the feeling that you are coping alone with nobody to count on is part of what makes grief so unbearable.
- Listen. Don’t try to fix or console, just listen. Listen to stories. Listen to laments. Listen to their favorite music. Anything that they want to share with you, just listen. Let them open up to you.
- Make sure their basic needs are getting met. Make sure they are getting enough to eat and drink. Make sure they are getting enough sleep. If you are worried they are not getting something, help them fulfill that need. For example, if you are worried they are not eating enough or healthily, make a meal for them and stay to eat it with them. If you are worried about them not getting enough sleep, ask to stay the night with them and then stay up talking and sharing until they are tired. A lot of the time people cannot sleep because their minds are too focused on processing the loss to really register the need for sleep. Let them talk themselves to sleep.
- Include them in things they would normally want to do. If they like going shopping, invite them to the mall. If they like golf, invite them golfing or to teach your kids to golf. Invite them to do things they would normally enjoy, even if they say no the first thousand times, it feels nice to be included and it feels nice to know you have not been forgotten.
- Don’t ask “is there anything I can do”, just do something, anything. Many times people cannot put their needs into words during the grieving period. It is best to just pick something you know you are good at and do that for them. Do you enjoy cleaning, help them by cleaning their kitchen while you talk. Do you enjoy gardening? Offer to weed the garden or trim some hedges. Do anything you know might be helpful, don’t wait to be asked.
- Don’t judge or offer unsolicited advice. There is no quick fix to grief. Everyone grieves in their own way. There is no right way or wrong way. There is no time limit or time requisite. Allow each individual to grieve on their own terms without making any remarks about how they are going about it, not to them or to other people.
- Respect their privacy. If there is something they do not want shared or do not want to discuss, respect that. If they do not want long visits, respect that. Respect their boundaries, don’t push them into situations that will make them uncomfortable or that will make them have to discuss difficult topics.