What can I do to express my support to someone grieving over the recent loss of a loved one?
As I age, I am seeing my contemporaries – people I have known, followed, admired, loved deeply or been related to – end their journey on this physical 3-dimensional plane.
While I am an incredibly emotional person, I am less adept at expressing my feelings than others to whom it comes naturally.
Due to loss of loved ones in my life, as well as being more spiritually inclined, I have a good understanding about what death brings and a good feeling about what transpires on the other side. So, now, when someone passes away, I am not as sad and depressed about the person’s passing.
Yes, I feel very sorrowful about the separation of the person that I regarded highly in this life and my inability to see them, or interact with them the same way in my experience of this time and space.
But I am less sad for the individual who has passed over. I have a strong sense that everything is better than it’s ever been – or possibly could be – for that person; and that he or she is not far from me.
Still, all around me, people are making the transition, exiting this world as we know it. After all, we all seem to be doing it, as it appears that everyone is dying.
How can I help someone who has lost a loved one?
In many ways, death can be a cruel concept to embrace, especially if it comes as a surprise.
The person who has died is not suffering, but those who remain can be deeply impacted by this immense sense of loss and grief.
How can you help?
Be mindful not to over-extend your concern. Much of the emotional impact being felt by the person struggling with the loss is internal. While they need to feel as though everything is going to be okay, it’s the last thing they want to hear. Being respectful of this temporary state of confusion is important.
So, how do I express compassion without being offensive?
(That’s the tricky part.)
The most meaningful gesture that anyone showed me in my moment of grief was to bring over a meal. Not to stay and visit (for many of us, most of our work is internal. We just need some space to get a grip on things), just to drop off a meal.
Why, you might ask, would this be so meaningful? Because the last thing I had a thought of was self nourishment, as is the case with most people in mourning. Yet it is important that one’s body and mind has the necessary fuel to effectively traverse the processing of this emotional trauma. Your meal can help contribute to their wellbeing as you express your concern and support.
If you are so inclined and have the ability to do so, extend an opportunity for a little physical contact. Maybe offer your handshake or place your hand on their arm – do not initiate a full on hug, let them do that, if they feel open to that much contact – and speak these words, “I am so sorry.”
That is all that you say. Let the person who is grieving say anything they are feeling, allow them the space to emote any way they feel is necessary in this moment, without any response, input or correction from you. Not now.
Tears are acceptable
If you have prepared by having some tissues on hand, and they begin to cry, offer them a tissue, but resist the urge to offer counsel. In this moment, just giving them the opportunity to release all the pent up emotion is the greatest gift of all.
You need not be a pillar of strength, if there are tears – and you feel them coming on – you do not have to hold them back, remembering that you are there for them. Do not overpower their release of emotion, and if you must speak about the person who has passed, refer only to a happy recollection with a smile.
Then ask, “Is there anything I can do for you?”
There may be one small thing that you could do for the person grieving that would be significantly meaningful to the person who is grieving.
Keep in touch
Reach out in small ways to let them know that they are in your thoughts, a brief text, appropriate emoticon, card or quick phone call (without overdoing it) can help someone feel better knowing that someone cares in this sensitive time.
This is a very difficult time for anyone – and knowing that someone is there, regardless of how they feel – is highly regarded support.