Knowing how to help someone who is grieving can mean the world to a person who really needs it. Here are a few ways to help someone who has recently experienced a loss.
I’ve experienced a lot of loss in my life. Family, friends, co-workers. Since the age of 12 I’ve lost more people in my life than I care to think about. There was a time in my life when I was losing a person a year. So I’m pretty familiar with what it looks like to not only need support, but to be there for someone who is grieving.
I’ve learned over the years that when someone close to you dies, there are some typical responses that people give in an effort to try to help. It starts with an apology, “I’m so sorry.” Which I can completely understand. People do feel terrible that you’ve lost someone close to you. “Let me know if you need anything,” or “Let me know how I can help” are usually the next responses. “Let me know…..”
And I get it. People don’t know what else to say or do in moments like that. And that is okay! When you’re on the receiving end of needing support, though, it can be difficult to hear over and over again. But here’s the thing: I think most people genuinely want to be there to help, they just don’t know how to.
So that’s why I decided to write this post. I’ve been in that position too. There are times when I’ve been a great support system for someone who experienced a loss. And there are times when I sucked at it. I look back at those times when I could have done more and feel terrible. I wish I had done more. But I work to find new ways to support them, even months and years later.
Seeing the people who were there for me and provided support when my dad passed was truly amazing. People I never expected to sent flowers, cards, brought over gifts, made meals and more. All without being asked. People who are dealing with loss 1) don’t want to have to ask for help and 2) don’t want to make decisions. My mom and I both agree: we are not good at asking for help. There are already a lot of decisions to be made (funeral arrangements, wills, insurance and much more), so making a decision of what help to maybe ask for is something the mourner just doesn’t want to have to deal with.
With all that being said,
Here are a few ways to help someone who is grieving.
Make them a meal.
Food is always a good thing. Don’t ask them if you can bring them something. Either just do it, or tell them you want to make them a meal and give them a few options. It will be so welcome. Neither my mom nor I was eating much in the weeks leading up to my dad’s passing. Food anytime is always welcome.
Send a card or flowers. Or drop off something you think would help them or let them know you care.
I got cards and flowers from blogging friends, my friends’ parents, people on my Young Living team. Flowers and little gifts to remember my dad and help me feel better came from people I never expected to send anything. And every time I received something it brought me to tears. Because they went out of their way to think of me in my time of need.
Invite them out.
Grieving can be lonely. Invite them to grab coffee or a drink, go to lunch, or go on a walk.
When my dad was still here, some of my girlfriends surprised me with brunch and a mani/pedi day. It was the sweetest surprise that brought me to tears. I felt so loved and it was a much needed break from the stress that I had been going through. Those same girls took me out again a few weeks after my dad passed away. It helps take the persons mind off their grief, if only for a few hours.
I know people mean well when they say they are here to talk if I need anything. But really taking the effort to pick up the phone and call means so much. Because it shows effort and that you really care. A text is nice, but a phone call means a lot more.
If they do ask for help, go above and beyond.
A few days before my dad’s service I texted one of my girlfriends to ask where I could find a black dress this time of year. Instead of just naming off a few stores, she sent me back links to at least 5 or 6 different dresses that she knew would suit me. She took the work off my plate and it was such a relief to not have to spend hours searching for a dress.
Another girlfriend (who lives in Budapest mind you!) sent three amazing bottles of wine to me and my mom. I didn’t need it, but she knows how much I enjoy a nice glass of wine, and that was one thing she could do from overseas (her and her hubby also made a donation to my dad’s favorite charity in his honor. Truly amazing friends.)
Mourning can be lonely. People may think you want to be left alone, but being alone just leaves you with all your thoughts and sorrow. There are times when the person may actually want to be alone to grieve, but more times than not company is welcome.
I hope this helps give you an idea of how to help someone who is grieving. Know that strong grief and despair that is first experienced after a loss doesn’t last. Some days are better than others. But knowing how to be there to support a friend or loved one who is suffering is one of the best ways to be there for them during their time of need.
Preach, friend. I remember feeling similarly after my mom died. I understand people sometimes aren’t sure what to do in these instances, but once you lose someone close, you’ll never forget. It’s not about making them feel BETTER, I think it’s about making them feel loved.
You’ve been on my mind so much. The dead parent club is not one that I think anyone wants to be in, but I have found that by talking to others who have lost parents (younger people especially), we find some camaraderie. XOXO
These are all so true. Thank you for speaking up!
I’m so happy you wrote this post because you identified my feelings being on the “i don’t know what to say” end of things. I love your advice to give people ideas and empower them to take charge beyond “I’m here for you.”
I think where people go wrong – in life in general actually, not just in situations of loss – is to say something stupid like, “Let me know if you need anything!” or “just ask if you have any questions!” MMMMMMMMKKKKKK. It’s such a passive way to check out and not be helpful! Do people really think someone who’s suffering a loss is going to reach out to them, or a new intimidated employee is going to ask tough questions, or it’s that person’s job to SEEK OUT information/advice/help? NO! Just like all the things you mentioned, being the friend who does actionable things is what’s helpful! And just like Jaelan said, we can’t make you feel any better about your loss, but we can make you feel loved.
Tiffany, I am so glad you wrote this. So many times, people want to help but don’t know how. I feel like I often will say “let me know how we can help” but I leave it at that. I am so glad to hear so many of your friends reached out, I remember seeing the mani/pedi day and thought–those are some good friends1 You are so right, mourning is a lonely business and I am glad are saying that and inviting people to take action. Love you.
These are such great tips. When we lost my father-in-law we had some meals brought over and it made such a big difference. Honestly it’s the only thing I remember that helped.