If your loved one has recently lost someone, it may take time for them to reach out or speak, as they may be overwhelmed with the things they need to take care of, from choosing a cemetery or funeral home to writing a eulogy. When they’re ready, it’s important that you know what to do when that time comes. The answer couldn’t be more simple: listen. Let them talk about anything or nothing. Do your best to not interject or push the subject. Answer questions when asked, but just let your loved one talk. It’s likely that they will be processing some of these thoughts and emotions for the first time, hearing their thoughts out loud, so give them space and hear them without judgement or agenda.
When listening to a loved one speak about a difficult experience, it’s a common reaction to want to offer your own experiences to make them feel better. However, this practice invites a practice of comparison, and before you know it, your conversation could sound like a ‘Who’s Had It Worse’ competition. While this may not be your intention, it could be the unfortunate consequence. Now is an important time for empathy, more than sympathy, even if you’ve had a similar experience to your loved one. Avoid bringing up your own experience unless they address it specifically, and if they do, be sure to comment that while you may understand their experience, you will never fully understand how they are feeling in this moment. This can offer them space to have their own thoughts and feelings without feeling judged or comparing them to yours.
Avoid Empty Words
We’ve all heard platitudes like, “everything happens for a reason” or “it was just their time to go.” While these may sound like a good response at the time, they are rarely the right thing to say. These sayings can make your loved one’s experience sound like an event that can be simply shrugged off or considered ordinary, rather than deserving of the weight that it may warrant. Instead, focus on saying things like, “I’m deeply sorry this has happened” or “the death of a loved one is never easy.” Some religions often offer words of comfort in times of grief, but be cautious when saying them. Saying someone’s death is “part of God’s plan” can make someone’s loss seem predetermined, or even mercenary. Assess the situation and proceed with empathetic caution.
Lend a Helping Hand
When friends or family members are struggling with their grief journey, they may oftentimes feel a sense of guilt or embarrassment when it comes to asking for help. That’s why being proactive can sometimes be the best approach when it comes to providing help and assistance. Send them a care package from the grocery store with things they might have forgotten to pick up, from food and drinks to toothpaste and toiletries. If there’s an event coming up and you know they’ll need help, perhaps text them to volunteer your time or to help babysit if they have children. Make sure that your loved one knows that helping them is not a chore or burden.
After you’ve listened well, responded carefully, and lended a helping hand, you might find yourself uncertain as to how to proceed next. After all, the grieving process can take time, and once you’ve felt you’ve done all you can, it can sometimes follow with uncertainty. What to do next? Take a deep breath. It’s okay to not know. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is simply remain available to your loved one. You might let them know you’re still here just by checking in. Sending a simple text like, “thinking of you,” “miss you, love you,” or “let me know if you need anything” can be a great way to remind your grieving loved one that you haven’t gone anywhere. These little check-ins can be important, especially if someone is experiencing stress or loneliness. A kind word can mean the world.
Watching a loved one suffer a loss is difficult. We hope that these suggestions for how to help someone who is grieving will help during this difficult time. Remember: They are lucky to have you in their life. Be patient with them, and kind with yourself. Healing can take time.
We want to help you make the best decisions for you and your family to celebrate the memory of a life lived. If you have any questions about our cemetery, funeral home or cremation services, please contact us.