Friday, September 7, 2018

How to support a grieving loved one

Everyone grieves differently. My process may not look at all like yours, and that's completely okay. Everyone is free to grieve in their own way.

These is no "right" thing to say..... But here are some things we have found helpful and not some helpful...

Please do:

1. Do reach out, do come by, do call. Even if you don't know what to say, even if you are afraid of bothering them. Chances are good they needed the distraction.

2. Do bring something if you can, a food item, a drink of some sort. The last thing a grieving person thinks to do is take care of themselves so bringing them prepared food and drinks is so helpful in making sure they are caring for themselves.

3. Do use the deceased persons name, unless the grieving person doesn't want you to. Personally, I love to hear people use my sons name. 

4. Listen, you don't have to say a word, or preach a sermon or have the perfect words to say, the best thing you can do it to listen! Let the grieving person talk, cry, yell or whatever it is they need to do.

Please do not:

1. Ask too many questions. I am open about the fact he passed away via suicide, Zuka was not ashamed that he was bipolar, we always felt like shame kept people from getting the help they need. I had strangers writing to me to know exactly how he "did it." They wanted intimate details of my sons death! It upset me, it made me angry. Please don't do that to a grieving person. I am sure if they want to talk about it they will when they are ready. Should they wish to keep it private please respect that. 

2. Don't say "if you need anything reach out to me" This is a nice statement but if you really want to be there, BE THERE. You reach out, Go visit, send a card, text, email them. If you want to do something don't wait for them to ask, just do it. Bring food, pick up some fresh fruit of flowers. The grieving person cannot even think straight enough to ask for what they need.  Tell them exactly what you are offering them, a shoulder to cry on? say it! A home cooked meal? offer that! 

3. Get offended. At one point when there were a lot of people at my house I thought, Man I wish everyone would go home. I didn't want them to leave, I enjoyed their company very much, What I needed was a little private time to scream and cry without someone being worried or upset by my process. As soon as everyone left I was lonely and wanted them back. Please understand, the death of a loved one is an emotional roller coaster and they LAST thing anyone wants to do in difficult times is to hurt anyone's feelings. 

4. Cancel Plans. If at all avoidable, Do not cancel plans with a loved one who if grieving. I ended up having people who called me their "best" and "closest" friend not show up at my sons memorial or celebration of life! People who I thought cared so much, disappeared. Your grieving loved one needs you, if any way possible do what you can to be there. There are, of course, understandable circumstance but let them know why you can't be there. Your visit might have been the high point of their day they were waiting for, the distraction they needed from the pain. Though it may seem like a small deal to you, it might not be for your grieving friend or loved one.

5. Say you understand. Unless you have been in the same situation please do not say, 'I understand what you are going through.' Unless you have lost a child you really have no idea how it feels. I made the mistake myself. A friend has lost her son and came to visit. I told her, "I think I can understand because my son has had similar things happen." When he passed I called her and I told her I was so sorry, I had no idea how she felt, no idea! Even two people who have been through the same experience don't experience it the same way.

6. Comment on their ability to handle grief. One of the things that well meaning people have said is you are handling this great, or you are so strong. I know this is said with nothing but the kindest intentions. All I could think when I heard this is guilty that I had put on a facade. Yes, I can pull it together most of the time when people are around, and yes I can talk about it by disassociating myself from my feelings and talking almost like it was a movie. When everyone goes home, I often fall completely apart, I cry, I scream "WHY", I blast him music and bawl in the shower and that's ok but know that I am no stronger than anyone else. I am just swimming and swimming and trying to keep my head above water, like anyone else would do. I didn't chose to deal with this pain, I have to.

7. Disappear. When speaking with other survivors of suicide, I have found that many were surprised by how fast people stopped calling and coming by. The first week I was almost overwhelmed by all the support, it really helped me through. By the second week it started to trickle off and now by the third week there are very few people stopping by. I get that people are busy and need to go about their own lives but after the funerals, memorials, after the support ends is when the grieving person needs you the most. 

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