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How Can I Help Someone Going Through Grief?

When Corey was murdered, I was very lucky. I had Bob and my sisters helping me. Additionally, I had Corey’s other siblings to give me support whenever I needed it.

I remember one night when I sat down in our recliner in the living room while dinner finished cooking. I began to cry. After about a minute, Justin’s bedroom door opened, and he walked down the hall and into the living room. He sat on the loveseat next to the recliner.

He never said anything.

He just sat there, lending me his energy.

It was exactly what I needed! I needed to be given permission to cry in front of others. Especially my children. His being there to support me was probably one of the most amazing things I’d ever experienced.

After I finished, he asked me if I was OK. Of course I told him “yes”.  To which he responded, “I love you, mom.”

Then he went back to his room.

When you talk about doing something to help someone in grief, it doesn’t have to be big or dramatic! It just needs to be.

Do you really expect someone to respond to “If there’s anything I can do, let me know”? Hell, I didn’t know I needed Justin to support me that evening! When you are in grief, you have NO idea what you need. Sometimes you forget to eat. Other times, you can be seriously medicated by well meaning doctors.

Don’t expect a grieving person to know what they “need” any more than you expect a crying baby to tell you what it needs! Sometimes you have to investigate, be perceptive, or just plain smell around for the problem.

I know that seems like I’m oversimplifying things.  But when you are deep into grief, it really becomes a situation where you are running on auto pilot.

In the book I just finished, “The Grieving Process: How to Deal With Grief and Loss…”, it has a great list of ways you can help someone in grief.

  1. Recognize that everyone grieves differently. Don’t assume you understand their personal experience. Be open to listening without judging!
  2. Give a listening ear at all times! If someone trusts you enough to share their grief with you, then let them! I understand it’s draining, believe me. But if you truly care for this person, encourage them to talk about their experience. Getting their feelings out will be the only way they can move forward.
  3. Send inspiring notes. When you can’t be there to listen, instead you can send them a card, email, text… In this day and age, there are so many ways you can do this, there really is no excuse to skip this! Even a quick, “Hi. I am thinking of you. I love you.” can mean the world to someone!!
  4. Ask what you can do for them. This is different than saying, “If there’s anything I can do, let me know.” Asking them specifically, “What can I do for you?” helps open the communication. It begs for an answer.
  5. Recommend a professional. If you know of a program (i.e. Corey’s Network, Inc.), a good therapist, or a support group… share this with them! Many times people in grief have no clue where to start looking for help. But if they know someone who has used a particular therapist and has had success, they are more likely to seek help from that person.
  6. Help with chores. Corey was our yard guy. He mowed our lawn every week or two. He had it down to an art. It would have been wonderful to have someone step in and mow our lawn for the last month of summer. Grocery shopping is still difficult for me. I have no patience for large groups of people or a slow moving shopper taking up the whole aisle.
    • Meals, laundry, or any upkeep on their home that you can identify and fix… all of these things are important, but may be neglected during grief.
  7. Help them change lifestyles. For example, if the person they lost was a big part of Christmas traditions, then help them create a new tradition. For example, after Corey died, we began the tradition of having brunch as a family on Christmas morning. This isn’t a way to “forget” their loved one. Just a way to make milestones more bearable.
  8. Be patient. I had a therapist that actually said, “Pick a date you will be done grieving Corey, and stick to it!” WHAT??? Everyone deals with grief differently (if you forgot this, it was written above too!). There were days (and days) where I wouldn’t speak at all. Bob patiently waited by my side until I was ready to speak. Allow the griever the space and time to heal.

For more specific information, the book is downloadable via Kindle The Grieving Process: How to Deal with Grief and Loss, and Recover to Feel Normal Again.

I know that we will be implementing some of these helping actions in our services. However, you don’t have to be a professional to utilize these with your friend.

I would like to add one more step that is not included in the book.

  • Say their loved one’s name. Talk about them. Tell them stories. Show them pictures. You aren’t going to hurt them by bring their loved one up! It gives the impression that you want to forget them if you avoid talking about them.  And nothing hurts more than thinking your loved one has been forgotten.

Michelle Metje

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