The loss of a loved one can be such a painful and life changing experience, and when a close friend experiences such loss, it can be quite difficult and confusing on how we can offer help, support and comfort.
Naturally, we tend to be lost for words and don’t know exactly what to do or say. Some may choose to not say anything at all, some may say a few words, but from personal experience, acknowledging the loss is much more meaningful and needed than ignoring it. After all, the griever hasn’t forgotten that they have lost a loved one, and speaking of them typically won’t hurt them more.
Aside from acknowledging their loss with kind words, this is a time that your friend will truly appreciate you acting out of your own will without having to be asked for help. Of course, before doing anything, inform them what your intentions are and ask if it is okay to proceed. Most of the time, you will notice that they are actually very grateful that you are offering your help.
Here are some practical ways you can consider helping:
1. Assist in planning funeral arrangements
This can be a very emotionally painful experience – no parent plans on burying their child. Offer direct assistance. Sit with your friend and see if they can put together a short ‘wish list’ and possibly list some funeral homes, church, cemetery, burial ground etc. that they prefer. If not, look up this information and make a list of the possible options. Offer to call and make the necessary arrangements
2. Offer to cook or run errands
During grief, life seems to lose all meaning and so do regular chores. Assisting your friend with cooking, cleaning the house, running errands, walking the dog, refilling prescriptions, picking up and driving their other children to their activities can be a tremendous help. Support your friend in small, ordinary ways – these things are tangible evidence of love and assist them in their healing process.
3. Offer to babysit
If they have other children, offer to babysit and set a day and time in which you will pick up the kids. Be specific e.g. “I will be by on Saturday at 11am to take the kids to the park while you have some time to yourself.” Your friend will truly appreciate this time alone to think, remember, cry and slowly adapt and come to terms with their loss.
4. Offer to help store/organize their belongings
Many grieving parents find it too difficult to organize their child’s belongings at home or their child’s room. This can be a great use of your support. Remember to ask first and ask for specifics such as, “Do you want to put everything away or just some things, do you want them in a particular location or in a particular way?”
5. Don’t wait to be asked for help
Very importantly, do not say “Call me if you need anything,” because your friend will not call. Not because they do not need you or your help, but because identifying a need, figuring out who might fill that need, and then making a phone call to ask for the help is beyond what they can handle at this time
Instead, make definitive offers such as, “I will be there at 3 p.m. on Tuesday to bring you a meal so you don’t have to cook” or “I will stop by each morning on my way to work and give the dog a quick walk.”
Remember that your friend WILL need help so offer your help and follow through with your offer.
6. Be a good listener
Remember to be a good listener and be there. Sometimes the best ways to show you truly care is just to listen. When a person is grieving, they naturally tend to want to share their memories of their loved one, express their fears, concerns, pain, plans and so much. Being that person that they can turn to, share their emotions with can be a great healing experience for them.
7. Show them your love
Finally, above all, show your love. Show up to their house, say something, do something. Be willing to stand beside them while trying to fill the empty painful hole they now have in their hearts. Be there. You do not need to have answers, but just listen and be there. Be present. Be a friend. Be love. Love is the thing that lasts and that they need the most.
Photo credit: adapted from Wrote| Flickr