“Anyone can show up when you’re happy. But the ones who stay by your side when your heart falls apart, they are your true friends.” – Brigitte Nicole
With Awareness Comes Opportunity To Show Support
I’ve not always been a good friend. My friends have lost important people in their lives and, at times, I’ve found excuses not to attend wakes or funerals; instead, I’ve opted to send obligatory flowers or a card. As I reflect on this, I’m disappointed in myself. However, with awareness comes opportunity–the opportunity to sincerely show up for the ones we care about during their time of loss.
A friend and fellow writer, David Baumrind, beautifully articulates what he needed when grieving a loss.
“I mostly needed them to accept my process as it was. Meaning, I needed to express myself, my grief, my sense of loss, and be generally a mess. So for my good friends, they let me hang out and be a mess. They threw a few tidbits of affirmation my way . . . but mostly they were just present for me. I did not need answers, suggestions, fix it ideas, judgment, helpful hints, etc. That just stressed me out more.“
Suggested Read: What Not To Say To People Who Are Grieving
Showing Support In The Midst of Loss
So often, we feel helpless or uncertain of how to comfort someone grieving. To feel helpful, we try to make it better by offering words of advice or even an explanation for a loss. As good friends, we believe that’s what we are supposed to do. I know many people have heard or spoken the words, “At least they’re not suffering anymore.” or “Everything happens for a reason.” Advice, justifications, explanations, and so forth invalidate our loved one’s grief. Grief is incredibly personal. There are no words that will make everything okay. It’s a process that requires time and understanding from those who love us most.
4 Ways To Show Your Support In The Midst Of Loss
1. Call your loved one to share a memory or fun story
To comfort someone grieving, try calling them with a good memory. Having a lighter conversation during a difficult season can boost their mood and create an opportunity to pause for a moment and connect.
2. Ask if you can bring them something to eat
Processing emotions, alerting family members, and planning a funeral are new tasks your loved one now has to perform. This can be a busy and exhausting time, and the grieving family may not feel like going to the grocery store, grabbing carry-out meals, or eating altogether. Providing food is one less thing to worry about, and it can be a great comfort to offer.
3. Be present
Your presence is sometimes the best present. Your loved one may not remember what you said, but they’ll always remember you being there. Even with social distancing guidelines in place, talking to someone while they stand on their porch, or even being an online attendee for a streaming service shows a tremendous amount of support.
4. Reflect on beauty
Spending time in the outdoors creates a reflective environment and allows us to start processing our grief. Consider inviting your loved one to a spot filled with natural beauty and let that beauty serve as a reminder of the divine nature of the universe.
Suggested Read: What You Can Do To Support A Friend During Loss?
Showing Support After A Loss
After a loved one has been laid to rest, the cheerful flowers have wilted, and the casserole dishes of food are gone, it is then that an individual requires the most support. Struggling to find a new normal, battling against loneliness and isolation, and wrestling with profound sorrow are daunting tasks. Perhaps patience, acceptance, and presence are the most important gifts we can offer to comfort someone grieving.
5 Ways To Show Your Support After A Loss
1. Write a note or send a card
After the services conclude, your loved one may feel lonely without a supportive group of people around them as everyone returns to business as usual. Sending a card lets them know you are still thinking about them as they begin adjusting to their new life without their loved one present.
2. Make a donation
Donating to specific organizations that honor the person who has passed helps to contribute to their legacy, and it’s a good way of educating yourself on current needs that you otherwise may not have paid attention to. Research local programs that are affiliated with causes that support the person’s good works, passions, or interests.
3. Make plans
Instead of casually mentioning a time to get together, be proactive and set a date. Look at your calendar and suggest dates and times. You may wish to connect over a cup of coffee or tea, or a fun activity such as a drive-in movie or a yoga class.
4. Celebrate special occasions
Milestones and celebrations can be great distractions. Whether it’s a birthday, a promotion, or anything in between, invite your loved one to share in the happiness of the event. Any excuse to smile can be a welcomed one.
5. Take a walk together
In a 2015 study, Stanford researchers found participants who took a 90-minute walk through a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and showed reduced neural activity in the area of the brain that’s linked to mental illness. Invite your friend or loved one on a hike or walk through a forest and spend quality time together among nature.
Suggested Read: Living After Loss – The New Normal
Only last week, my friend lost her mom. I failed to attend the visitation and funeral. Today, I am seizing the opportunity to invite her to dinner.