These 9 tips are intended to help people better understand, interact with and treat their loved ones who are grieving a profound loss.
From the many I’ve spoken with as well as my own grief journey of losing my daughter, Maddie, this blog offers solid and reliable insights and guidelines that will help us to kindly and compassionately treat those who are grieving. When in doubt, we should ASK what they need and want.
Grieving doesn’t have to be scary. Grief can be a doorway to becoming the best version of ourselves.
Will you join me for the upcoming Heal Your Heart Event to explore what you’re grieving and how to heal from that? Grieving can feel natural and healthy when you’re held in a safe, loving space.
1) Talk To The Griever About Their Loved One (Do Not Avoid Them)
The thing we love most is when others love and appreciate our loved one and speak of them with fond memories.
- Say the deceased’s name because we miss them.
- We don’t want people to avoid saying their name or speaking to us about them. It feels good for us to hear their name.
- This isn’t for 100% of people grieving but it’s very common.
- And if we don’t know, we can ask, “Do you enjoy speaking about (insert name of loved one)?
If we get the green light to talk of their loved one, we can say, “Tell me about your precious _______. What is one of your fondest memories? What did he/she love to do? What was one of his/her funniest quirks?”
2) When In Doubt What A Griever A Needs And Wants, Ask Them
This sounds like common sense, but we are afraid of such conversations. We can sincerely say: “I’m so sorry for your loss. Is there anything I can do to support you right now? What do you need?” See what they say and then follow through to help them out.
3) If The Griever Doesn’t Know What They Need (They May Not If They’ve Been Blindsided By This Loss), Think For Them
Let’s put ourselves in their shoes. If our world had just fallen out from underneath us, what would we need? Maybe we’d need food/meal preparation, someone to water the plants/garden, to help with the animals, to go to the grocery store, a hug, empathy, connection, to get us gas in the vehicle, tend to the kids, etc.
After we lost Maddie, our dear friend, Judy Ryan, went to the store for us. My brother, Shaun, came over and watered our newly planted plants. Many brought us food. My daughter, Chelsea’s, boyfriend, Brandon, established a Go Fund Me for us. People were so kind and caring.
4) Follow Up With The Griever
They aren’t thinking clearly, and this might go on for months. We must not take their lack of response personally. Instead, let’s make sure WE follow up with THEM.
When Maddie died, I had people texting and messaging me, leaving me voice mails, and replying to Facebook videos I was putting out there. I couldn’t keep up and I didn’t try. This is normal.
Because the griever is so inundated with messages from everyone, demand upon them, and unique challenges and responisbilities, let’s take it upon ourselves to be the responsible party to follow up with them.
5) Be Patient With The Griever
We cannot know what another person is going through because they may not speak their true thoughts and feelings and let us know just how deeply they are hurting. Their journey through grief is on THEIR timeline, and we would do well to honor and respect that.
Even if they want to talk over and over again about their loved one and tell the same stories, that’s OK. We should allow this. Often they feel like they are burdening us. Let’s reassure them that they are not.
6) Be Truly Present For The Griever
We can be there to really listen to the Griever, cry with them, without trying to jump in and make it better, to soften the blow or rescue them. This allows them to grieve and really feel their feelings.
Sometimes just sitting next to them, being present WITH THEM, holding their hand, is enough. We don’t have to say ANYTHING. This takes the pressure off of us for trying to come up with the best words, because words are less important than our loving presence.
7) Understand The Griever Is Traumatized
When we sustain a deep loss, a normal response is to “freeze.” This is an indication we are stuck in trauma in the cells of our body. How trauma manifests will be different for everyone, but there are two main ways I’ve experienced the trauma of loss.
- The trauma brings on more emotional pain and relationship conflict
- The trauma brings on physical illness and injury
Emotional Pain From Other Sources Is More Common
When we lose someone we deeply love, our pain is heightened and activated in a sense. And this pain attracts more pain in some ways. I believe this is an energetic phenomenon, like energy attracting like energy.
When I lost Maddie, I experienced what felt like rejection from a networking group I’d been part of for years. It was bizarre because I loved this group’s members who I saw as a central support system.
But a few of the people in the group weren’t comfortable (subconsciously) with my pain, even though I thought I handled it well and invited open discussion about Maddie. I ended up leaving, feeling very hurt and betrayed.
As I look back on it, I realize I was in pain and some didn’t know how to engage with me. I believe it was a gift too because it revealed to me that this group didn’t align with my values, and I would be better served to leave and find a tribe who resonated with my energy and being-ness.
Injuries And Illness Are More Common
A week after Maddie died, my husband, daughter and her boyfriend went on a trip to Colorado to get away. We were playing pingpong. Someone served the ball to me. It went off the table, and I quickly turned around to grab it off of the floor and stood up, banging my head into an overhead, steel stairwell beam, which caused my head to bleed. It hurt like hell.
Exactly two months after Maddie died, I met a friend for lunch at a new restaurant. I felt very off that day, and I excused myself to go to the restroom. I turned to the left to go to the bathroom, not realizing there were stairs. I tripped and sprained my ankle.
Eleven months after Maddie died, I was vacationing in Big Sky, MT. We went to the hottub on day two. I was standing in front of it, admiring its beauty and turned to the right to sit some things down on a table. There was a raised surface at the end of the hottub that was camoflouged, and I tripped over it.
I was catapulted forward when I couldn’t catch my balance. I hit the ground hard, badly dislocating my right shoulder. My family rushed me to an ER to get it put back in place. This began a long several months of physical therapy to recover.
I’m NOT accident prone, but in the course of one year, I sustained 3 injuries after Maddie’s death.
8) Allow The Griever To Live One Day At A Time
This advice comes from a gentleman who lost his wife in a car accident in which he was driving, and he now has severe PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder and depression).
To paraphrase him: “When we lose someone we love, we will never be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together again to its original structure. There will always be jagged edges. I live one day at a time. I’ve lost many friends too.”
This is sage advice to live one day at a time, but it’s not always easy to do. We want to project into the future and imagine what it will be like without our loved one. We can wear a day out in our minds just by worrying.
9) Encourage The Griever To Take Care Of Themselves
One key thing we can do to support a Griever is encourage them to find small moments of joy and connection along the long and arduous path of grief.
In addition, they need exercise, good nutrition, hydration and sleep. Let’s check up on them to ensure they are getting proper care and not isolating emotionally.
If someone you know is grieving, take a few seconds and send them this blog. My heart is very soft and open to walking alongside people who are grieving and hurting. There is much hope.
I’ve an upcoming Heal Your Heart Online Retreat to explore what you’re grieving and how to heal from that.
It doesn’t have to be scary to explore grief and loss when you’re held in a safe, loving space.
Holistic Divorce/Loss Coach