As 2007 draws to a close, a great many of us will put our lives under the microscope. Some will see the negatives in their lives magnified; the mediocre job somehow seems like the worst thing that could ever happen, the weight issues or the difficult relationship becomes an all-consuming entity. However, the people hit the hardest during this season of togetherness, may just be those suffering from the recent death of a loved one.
This week I have been faced with the difficult task of attempting to console three different friends after they have received news of the death of a family member. Since I consider it the role of a good friend to be supportive, especially during these times; I did some research about how to best help my friends during this most difficult of times. When the typical bumper sticker “it’s going to be okay” advice just won’t do, consider the following actions which I gleaned from one Hospice website;
— Encourage expression of thoughts and feelings
“Do you feel like talking?”
“I don’t know what to say, but I care.”
“Please don’t worry if you cry in front of me.”
— Help create rituals
— Help recall good times
— Help put regrets into perspective
— Urge person to look to their faith community and/or a grief professional
— Encourage person to consider a support group
— Plan for difficult times/dates (anniversaries, birthdays, holidays,
— Help clean out loved one’s things and use time to reminisce
— Suggest writing a letter to the loved one, or keeping a journal
— Don’t be afraid to have a good time or to laugh
— Share favorite quotations, words of encouragement
— Encourage person to take care of their health
— Help shop, cook, write thank you notes
— Be patient. Grief takes time. Avoid saying things like “you should be
getting on with your life.”
I find that one of the most important of these bits of advice is to “Encourage person to take care of their health”. Most people, especially women, feel that it’s their job to take care of the rest of the family when someone dies; however, the person needs to be reminded that they can’t effectively take care of anyone until they have taken care of themselves. You can help them do this by telling them its okay to acknowledge their grief and talk about it with you or someone else that is outside of the situation.
It’s also important that you and your friend stick to your normal habits/meetings. While it’s to be expected that a death will disrupt the person’s normal routine temporarily, try to resume the coffee meet-ups, shopping trips or other activities you regularly do your friend, as soon as is possible once the actual funeral or other memorial has happened. This will remind your friend that they have a life to live and help prevent them from becoming inordinately depressed and withdrawn due to grief.
Most importantly, be patient; your friend has experienced a significant loss and will most likely be affected by it for some time. The grieving process is highly individual as far as a timeline goes and it may just take longer for some to process their grief.