I did not know anything about grief until I began to experience it myself. I’ve never heard a lesson, sermon or chapel talk on it. I’ve never been taught what to expect for myself or others when dealing with it. And what I’ve noticed, at the most inconvenient time is that most people do not know how to interact with others coping with it.
I understand that everyone is different — no two people may grieve or overcome adversity the same way. People cope according to their personality and personal schedules. However, my family and I have noticed some themes as we carry the weight of our grief together. From those themes, I’ve listed some general do’s and don’ts for the next time you have a loved one dealing with a heartbreaking loss:
The last thing people in grief want to do is cook, at least that was the case for me. However, the second-to-last thing they want to do is eat. People continuously brought food to our home the first two days after my mother’s death. We did not have appetites, and didn’t eat most of it. But without it, we may have eaten hardly anything at all. Personally, I recommend waiting until after the delivery rush before providing some comfort food. By that time, all of the other stuff will have gone bad.
Don’t: “If you need anything, let me know.”
If I had a penny for every time I heard that phrase, I could probably have my next three car payments paid in full. I understand everyone means well, but what others don’t understand is that first-time grievers do not know what they need, so they will not tell you. Some, like me, simply do not want to be an inconvenience when they have even an inclination of something they need. Sometimes it’s better to do it before asking — deliver coffee, offer to make a grocery run or simply stop by with a box of Kleenex and time to spare.
Do: Acknowledge they are hurting.
People in grief still want to feel like people, and they take comfort in knowing that there are people standing with them, caring for them. Do not ask what happened, but realize ignoring the situation only makes said person feel worse. Instead of walking on eggshells or avoiding conversations, hug them, give them a smile and just let them know you’re thinking about them. They do not need to hear how sorry you are or that you “understand” what they are going through. Keep it simple, sweet, and maybe send them a note after the first 30 days.
Don’t: Expect them to make decisions.
There is a lot of decision making when planning a funeral. There’s the casket, the flowers and the photos to be used. There’s choosing a funeral home, cemetery and reception hall. It’s exhausting. Don’t blame someone for not wanting to make another executive decision for a while.
Overall, I hope these few pointers help bring awareness to anyone who has a loved one tackling grief. Nobody can take away the hurt of another, but they can make the process a little bit smoother.