Practical ways to help someone grieving
Posted by AK Lander | On November 25, 2019 16:08
When someone you love is grieving, it can be difficult to know how to help. In this guide, we reveal some of the practical ways you can help someone grieving.
Seeing someone you love experience grief is never easy. Although you want to help them, you may worry that’ll you say or do the wrong thing. However, by just being there and listening, you are helping your loved one more than you realise. As they grieve, they’re likely to fall out of their usual routine and struggle with daily tasks, which is when you can go the extra length to help them. In this guide, we reveal the top tips for how to offer practical help to someone bereaved.
Although you mean well, try to avoid the cliché ‘let me know if you need anything’ as the chances are, the person will never ask anything of you. Instead, try to be as specific as you can when you’re offering your help. Whether it be helping with the funeral arrangements and choosing from quality headstones or picking their kids up from school, by being specific they will see that you genuinely want to help.
We spoke to Sarah Beckman, a national speaker and the author of bestselling books, Alongside: A Practical Guide to Loving Your Neighbor in Their Time of Trial and Hope in the Hard Places: How to Survive When Your World Feels Out of Control. Sarah tells us her advice: “One of the best ways to help someone who is grieving is to make a specific offer of help. Make sure you actually take the time to think of what you can do and offer that!
“This is beneficial because it removes the burden from the grieving person to think of something for you to do. It also makes it easier for them to accept your help when you make a clear offer. Some ideas are, ‘I’m going to the grocery store, what can I pick up for you?’ or ‘I would like to bring you dinner on Tuesday night, does your family have any allergies?’”
Immediately after someone passes away or around the time of the funeral, the bereaved person is likely to be surrounded by people offering their condolences and support. However, after a few weeks or months pass by, people carry on with their lives, which can leave the person who’s grieving feeling more alone than ever. As grief has no time limit, it’s important to check-in with your friend to see how they’re doing, even after months have passed.
Esther, the founder of LOLA (Loss of Life Advocates), a company that assists families before, during or after loss, tells us her advice: “Daily check-ins are essential to make sure someone who is grieving is processing properly. Call them and, if your call is answered, ask if they need anything such as groceries, a prescription pick up or dog walking. Some people based on their personality profile will bounce back sooner than later but others will want to sit and just feel.
“There is no proper time clock, so check-ins are good. Create a reminder on your phone to call them every few days, then once per week etc. It gets harder as time goes on and things come up as the months progress. So, having a schedule to check-in is helpful.”
Although check-ins can be appreciated, be aware that your friend may want space and time alone to be able to come to terms with what has happened. Esther adds: “Just showing up is not always welcome. Unless you think there is a welfare issue, if you have to go by, go with someone else to be a buddy. Some people don’t like surprise visits, they feel like they have to ‘host’ drop-in guests. Even though you may have good intentions always ask first before dropping by. And always start with, ‘you can totally say no, but I would love to drop by for 15 minutes’ then set a timer to not overstay.”
Be present and listen
When you’re with someone who is grieving, make sure you’re completely present and engaged in the conversation. Avoid being distracted by your phone, mentioning how busy you’ve been or how stressed at work you were that day. If they initiate a conversation, listen intently and be patient as they may struggle to formulate the words for how they’re feeling. Try not to worry about saying the wrong thing, as a reply may not even be necessary. Just knowing you are listening can be all the help they want.
Sarah continues: “I think people too often stay away out of fear of what to say or do when someone’s grieving. Most often people want your presence and patient love. They don’t need perfect words; they need you to keep remembering them past the first month when many of the initial well wishes and offers of help have subsided. Show up and keep showing up. Whether that’s to shovel the driveway, mow the grass, drop off some groceries, send a meal by delivery, invite them to do things that they would normally have done with their loved one. It’s the small things that are so meaningful when someone is grieving. Don’t make it more complicated than it has to be!”
We also spoke to Katie from the team at Bump, Baby & You, an online community for mums, who advises: “Quite simply, be there. Let them cry on you, let them rant at you, just be a consistent presence and don’t avoid them in their time of grief. Avoiding someone who is grieving is one of the worst things you can do. We know that it may feel a little awkward if you’re unsure how to console a grieving person but being a supportive and consistent presence who is there for them is enough. Comparing loss is another no-no. Their loss is no more bearable than anyone else's, no matter the circumstance.”
Avoid using cliché sayings
When you can tell your loved one is in pain, it can be tempting to try and put a positive spin on the situation. This is something mentioned by Sarah, who says: “One of the hardest things for people who are grieving to face is the unthoughtful words of well-intentioned people. Try to avoid these expressions, which come off as insensitive, ‘They’re in a better place. ‘It’s good they’re not suffering anymore’, ‘time heals all wounds’, ‘It’s for the best’ or any statement that begins with ‘at least…’ Remember grief has an individual timetable, and it’s not your place to determine how someone should feel after their loved one is gone. It’s best not to put your silver lining on their grey cloud. The general rule is just because it’s true doesn’t make it helpful.”
Katie from Bump, Baby & You also adds: “Our community strongly feel that you shouldn’t try to diminish their feelings with sayings like ‘everything happens for a reason’. These sayings aren’t consoling but a lot of people don’t realise this!”
How you can help someone grieving
As well as actively listening and spending time with your loved one, you should also try to help out with jobs in their life that they may be struggling to do themselves. Below are some practical ways you can help someone who is grieving.
When someone is grieving, they’re unlikely to be able to care for themselves as they usually would. You could offer to do some food shopping, even if it’s just picking up a few ready meals, bread and milk. This will be greatly appreciated by the bereaved, especially if they wish to avoid bumping into people in the local supermarket.
Getting outside in the fresh air and doing exercise might benefit your loved one who’s grieving, so you could offer to accompany them on a dog walk. If they don’t feel up for it, walking their dog on their behalf can be a great help.
In grief, it can be difficult to care for yourself let alone for others, so if your friend has children, try to assist them whenever you can. Esther suggests “Offering to go pick up or drop off kids at activities.”
When you’re visiting your friend and you notice the place may not be as spick and span as it normally would, why not spend a quick half hour loading or unloading the dishwasher, emptying the bins or giving the place a quick hoover. Doing even the smallest of tasks can be difficult when experiencing loss, so it will be appreciated.
Likewise, to cleaning the house, you could even give their garden a quick fix-up. Esther says: “When the weather changes, offering to stop by to cover plants, pipes and secure the house.”
Accompanying them to meetings
After someone passes away, there are some things that need to be doing, such as registering the death and arranging the funeral, all of which can be difficult for the bereaved to complete, especially if they must attend face-to-face meetings. Esther suggests: “If there are meetings, offering to go as a second set of ears but do not offer an opinion unless asked. Just being a pillar of strength will help.”