Life is precious. We never know when we’ll go, so we try to make the best of our time on Earth in various ways. As we age, mortality becomes all the more present, whether right in front of us or peripherally. Perhaps you’ve not had to face death in any way, shape, or form, yet. But chances are even if you haven’t experienced mourning the death of a loved one before, you might be faced with a loss like this through a secondhand experience.
Eventually, you could have friends, colleagues, partners, or someone close to you experience grieving before you do. You’ll want to make sure you’re there for them in the most supportive way possible if so. And it won’t always be easy.
To help someone grieve is not a prescriptive task. The grieving process happens differently for everyone. Although the grieving process is said to have five to seven steps included in it, which to get through a monumental loss, not everyone experiences grieving in this step-by-step way. Just having a support system around the person grieving is one step towards acceptance — being a part of that support system could help your grieving loved one immensely.
If your loved one is grieving the loss of someone close to them, here are some ways in which you can help them.
Always Reach Out
The time immediately after a passing can be the most difficult, and will probably be when your loved one needs supportive distance the most. Depending on the grieving person’s personality, they might want to go through this difficult time alone, or they want their loved ones to be there physically with them through a majority of it. The best way to gage this is by how well you know your loved one’s patterns. Be sensitive about this — some people don’t want to talk about their grief directly, and it might take them time. Try to feel out how they want to approach interaction.
This could be more of an intuitive move, meaning that you might not always know what your loved one is feeling about being around others. That’s why the best move you can make to ensure that your loved one is supported is simply being available. Whether that’s in the flesh, with a phone call, or even by text. If your friend knows that you’ll be there for them if you need them, it will give them some type of solace in their time of need. Sometimes being a good friend in these scenarios means that you are simply there to listen.
Part of the grieving experience is the confusion as to how the person grieving will find a way to eventually feel better, or at least at peace. These could be different for everyone. If your friend wants to be alone, let them. If they want to go out on a karaoke binge, go with them. If they want to sit on the floor of their apartment with a tub of cookie dough watching reality tv, be the one that hands them the spoon. These small things will let your loved one know that you’ll be there for them no matter what.
This will likely be the hardest part of seeing your friend in pain over their loss. Usually an overwhelming experience, a funeral is meant to honor the person who passes and allows those who loved them to say goodbye. It’s a somber tradition that gives the family a small amount of peace in that their loved one was celebrated. If you want to be there for your loved one, then standing by them at the funeral is one of the major ways in which you could do so.
Sometimes, the funeral can be a shocking time for those who are not ready to come to terms with a death. That’s why having friends and family around during this difficult time is essential. The funeral should be approached with the utmost care. Try to be as supportive as possible, keep your ears open, and bring funeral gifts for the family.
The gift should be tasteful and thoughtful. You can even donate a small amount of money to a charity that the departed supported. Make sure that a gift is sent within two weeks of the passing.
If you can’t make it to the funeral, then be sure to send a gift, a card, or flowers in your place, or even a combination of the aforementioned. You’ll want your loved one and their family to know that you’re thinking of them despite your absence.
Offer Another Outlet
If you find that your loved one is having a particularly difficult time with the loss, or is turning to isolating or self-destructive measures in order to get through this period, then you might want to help them to find another outlet to express their grief. Even if your friend isn’t spiraling, but seems like they need another way to express their emotions around the loss, either offer an activity or hobby they could take up as a sort of distraction, or some other activity that could more directly help them.
For example, there are support groups for those going through a particularly difficult loss, and you could do some research on which of these your loved one could try. You could also offer to connect them with someone who’s been through a similar grieving process. During this time, your loved one might feel alone — it’s nice to know that there are other people who’ve been through it and survived.
If you want to get your loved one to put their grieving energy into something that can potentially distract or transform their energy, then you could gift them a journal to help them to sort out their thoughts through writing, paint and canvas to do the same, a pass to start taking yoga classes, a writing course, a physical exercise class that could increase their endorphin levels, or just recommend something fun that you can do together or they can do alone.