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Give Support Beyond the Funeral

Understanding Grief

Often people have a hard time supporting someone who is grieving because they have never experienced a significant loss. It is completely understandable and normal to have a difficult time understanding a life experience that you have never been through. Sometimes it is hard to support someone grieving because of your own grief or personal feelings around death. That is normal too. For now, we can focus on how to support someone that is grieving by remembering three basic rules. 


1. Sitting with the pain is sometimes better than trying to fix it. 

Sometimes the reason people have a hard time providing grief support is that they don't know how to "make it better". The good news is that you don't have to. Grievers are often not looking for anyone to make it better, but for someone to validate that their feelings are real and that they are okay to feel them. Nothing is going to make it better when it comes to grief when the only thing that would make it better is for that person to not be dead. When it comes to providing support to someone who is grieving, no matter how long it has been since their person died, the best thing to do is simply meet them where they are at. Listen to them as they are talking, and ask questions the same as you would if you were talking about anything else. Sit with the feeling by avoiding phrases like "they wouldn't want you to be sad", "it's time to move on", "everything happens for a reason" and other expressions that are often not really supportive. 

2. Only offer support that you can actually provide.

It may seem supportive to offer "let me know if you need anything", but that doesn't always result in the griever being able to redeem that support when they actually need something. You mean well when you say it, but instead of offering a blanket expression, try to offer something specific that you can do! What you offer might vary depending on your relationship with the person. It is also okay to not offer any specific task. If you would not be comfortable actually doing anything for them, then you shouldn't say "let me know if you need anything". Here are some suggestions of what you could say to offer specific support to someone grieving 

  • "I'd like to bring you over dinner some night this week. What day would be best for you?" 

    • Unless you already are familiar with preferences or any dietary needs, be sure to follow up by asking those questions. 

  • "Have you been able to get to the grocery store? I am going (tomorrow/this week..etc) and can pick things up for you or go with you if you'd just like some company." 

    • Everyone is different-some feel that grocery shopping is personal and would not be comfortable having someone do it for them but would welcome having company while they go. Grocery shopping can be daunting if they weren't the one who usually did it or because being in public spaces like that is often overwhelming. Another alternative would be to offer to pay for a grocery delivery service. 

  • "What can I help you with this week? My evenings are open and I can come over and help you with anything that you need."

    • The specific part of this is making it clear that you have the time and availability to spend time with them. Grievers have often expressed that just having "a buddy" while they cleaned, did laundry, or went through things for the deceased, is often more helpful than explaining to someone what to do. While you are there, depending on the person and relationship, you might initiate taking care of something. Are toys all left out? Put them away. Dog whining at the door? Let them out. Dirty dishes piled high in the sink? Wash them. Sometimes it is hard for people to ask for help but they appreciate it all the same. 

  • "I know that this date (birthday, anniversary, holiday, etc) is coming up. Do you have plans? I'd like to do something with you."

    • Especially when it is after the first year of the loss, grievers still need support. They can feel forgotten and like everyone assumes they are "fine" because of how long it has been. Keep in mind the important dates and check in with your grieving friend. 

Some other ways to support a person grieving and to think about: 

  • Lawn care/ mowing lawn 

  • Child care 

  • Pets 

  • Checking in on basic hygiene, sleeping, drinking water, eating meals

  • If you are a coworker, anything related to work that you might be able to help with 

  • Anytime there is something positive that happens, remembering that grief exists too

3. There is no rulebook in grief.

Take everything you think you know of how a person should be doing anything and throw it out. There is nothing that a grieving person should be doing and there is no length of time that grief will last for. Every single person is different and every loss is going to be different. Even if you have experienced grief, that doesn't mean you know how another person is going to respond. This could really be the number one rule but I think it fits in last because it is the best biggest takeaway. There is no rulebook for grief, there is nothing that tells us what to expect. The only thing that we should be watching with grievers, is to make sure they are safe, not harming themselves, or at risk of harming themselves. 


Need more? 

I am available for one-on-one grief consulting to assist in providing grief support. Contact me from here for more information. 

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