I’m in my fifties now and one of the realities I have noticed is that many more people around me are dealing with grief and loss. Whether it’s the loss of a parent or even the loss of a spouse, as we age grief becomes a part of all our lives.
I am by no means an expert, but having gone through the death of my first husband and the loss of my mother, I have lived through my fair share of grief, so I want to use my experience to offer some advice.
What NOT to say/do:
· We all know people who say things like, “they are in a better place now” or “everything happens for a reason”, neither of those statements are helpful when someone is hurting so please refrain from those comments.
· Please do not tell someone,“ I know how you feel” because you really don’t know exactly how they feel. Each situation is unique, and having empathy doesn’t mean you know what someone else is feeling.
· It may sound like a compliment, but saying “you are so strong” can be incredibly frustrating. Being strong is the only option they have right now, they really want to curl into a fetal position and sob, but putting one foot in front of the other is all they can do and its not strong, its survival.
What to say/do:
· Your friend or loved one probably doesn’t feel like eating; so don’t focus on bringing food. We had so much food when my husband died, much more than we could ever eat. We felt guilty about wasting it all and honestly we were stressed about getting the bowls and serving dishes back to the right people – so if you feel you must bring food - please bring it in disposable dishes.
· A thoughtful gift might brighten their day. I mentioned wanting to write and I had an amazing friend who went right out and picked up some beautiful journals for me. Another friend bought a big comfy bathrobe and some beautiful candles to help make my bedroom feel like a safe place.
· Cleaning or doing other chores can be extremely helpful. My sister-in-law swept and mopped and did dishes, it helped me to not feel so overwhelmed.
· Sometimes just being there is the most important thing you can do. I still remember my sister climbing into bed with me and sleeping there; she didn’t say anything, she just stayed right next to me so I wouldn’t feel alone.
Grieving is part of life, but it is one of the hardest things to go through. Give your loved one time to grieve, just be there to listen, that’s the most valuable thing you can do.