It hasn't been very long since the death of one of my very close childhood friends. It was a tragic auto accident and I spent days in shock after it happened. Even though I hadn't seen her in months, the weight of the grief I felt after she passed away was very heavy. She was only 31 years old, and her untimely death left me grief stricken.This wasn't the first time I had dealt with grief, and I know it won’t be my last. It won’t be the last time that I will attend a funeral and try to console a very, very heartbroken family. A family that I was close to growing up and one that I often thought of as my own family. I can’t remember many childhood moments without her in them. We grew up together and she is a part of who I am today.
I like to let her memory pass through on quiet mornings. There were so many good times and laughs. During the time of my grief, consoling me was a nightmare for my family. They were unsure how to approach me during this time, and truthfully, there were many times I was unsure how to approach myself. However, I have to say they did an excellent job at just listening to me babble on and on, about how wonderful it was to have her in my life, and that alone seemed to be enough on most days.
Here are some tips to help console someone who is dealing with grief:
1. Say less. Sometimes the more we say, the more that we stumble upon things we do not mean. I know that many times I would hear “God has a plan” or people would say “now she is with her Grandpa”. People often don’t want to hear any rationalization about their loss. The first two stages of grief are denial and anger. Many times people are not ready to hear rationalization until they reach the last stage which is acceptance. So instead of words of comfort just simply say "I'm sorry for your loss" and offer a hug.
2. Share memories and listen to memories. I have a good friend who lost her son when he was only 15 years old, very suddenly. I didn't know him, but I love to listen to her memories about him and I know she loves to tell them. When I see her in a crowd of people that did know him, I see the joy on her face when they all share good memories about his life. Even if this makes someone cry, it is often a good thing for them to know their loved one is always remembered, and lives in your heart as well as theirs.
3. Make them something they can keep. I think that meals are a wonderful idea, and it helps the family get through a time when planning dinner is the last thing on their mind. However, it is also a good idea to make them something they can treasure and keep. A scrapbook of your favorite photos or a tree to plan in their yard. When my first son was stillborn my brother brought over a beautiful tree that we planted in his memory. To this day I look at that tree and fondly remember my beautiful son.
- TRIBUTE SCRAPBOOKING & JOURNALING
One healing activity a grieving family can do together is tribute scrapbooking. Keep a grief journal for your own private thoughts and reminisces.
4. Give them space. Sometimes people aren't ready to sit and talk to anyone. Just kindly let your friend or loved one know that you are available if they need you. Many times it is good to reach out more than once but don’t be pushy about it. Sometimes, the best way to help someone is to give them time and space.
5. Remember Holidays and Significant dates. Remember the birthdays, anniversaries, and significant dates. Too often those dates are forgotten. A nice way to show that you care is to send a card on the birthday of the deceased, or bring the family flowers. Those days, and holidays are going to probably always be tough for them, so be extra thoughtful and let them know you remember.
6. Help with everyday things. Life will undoubtedly stand still for someone who has lost a loved one. However, life is still moving around them. Bills still need to be paid, meals made, and chores around the house done. Offer a helping hand. Most often everyday life is just too much to deal with for someone who is dealing with grief. When your friend or loved one is ready, offer to come over and offer to just ‘be’ there. Small things like making coffee, doing the dishes, helping to sort through the mail, or just sitting with them quietly, can make a huge difference.
This song was written for a friend who lost her son at a very young age.
"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love." - Washington Irving