Having a grief ministry, I talk to several grievers every week. So many grievers I talk to are beyond frustrated with their family, friends, and fellow church members after experiencing grief.
They each share a common story…“After the funeral, nobody seemed to care. I’m drowning in my grief and everybody is going on living their lives.”…”I feel as though I am letting people down”…”If I hear one more cliche, I’m going to scream”…
I think anyone who has lost a loved one wants to know that others care about them…especially those closest to them. Yet so many I talk to share with me that the people they thought would be there for them weren’t…and people they weren’t close to have really helped them out throughout their most heartbreaking times.
I wonder why that is? Is it because loved ones can’t stand to see the people they love in so much pain..so they avoid them? Is it because life is no longer fun (grievers aren’t exactly the life of the party) so they move on to other people who aren’t so laden with sadness? Do they somehow think grief is contagious?
I think most people do care. I just do not think grief is talked about enough so that people know what to say or do for their loved ones in times of grief.
I think the key is educating people. Once people know better, they can then do better to help others.
Here are 10 ideas for anyone who wants to know how to reach out to their loved ones who are going through loss:
- The best thing you can do is to simply say sorry and “be there”…no additional words necessary. Just show up, let them know you love them, hug them, and simply listen.
- Never say, “Call me if you need anything”…Dozens of people have already told them that. Grievers need you to be specific. Instead, ask, “May I go to the store for you?”..”Can I run any specific errands for you?”..”May I bring you dinner tomorrow night?”
- NEVER go to a griever’s home and start cleaning or cleaning out their deceased loved one’s belongings without getting permission FIRST. A good rule of thumb is for a griever to wait 1 year (if at all possible) before deciding what to do with their loved one’s things. It is very common for grievers to regret doing so before the 1 year mark…and they may silently resent others for intruding by throwing their loved one’s belongings away without discussing it with them first.
- Please do not avoid a griever. You’d be surprised how many people assume that other people are being there for a griever, when in reality, no one is keeping up with them or comforting them. Periodically call them or stop by to see how they are doing. Send them a card, text, or a note to let them know someone cares.
- Realize that everybody grieves differently. Respect their grief. Allow your loved ones the freedom to grieve however they need to grieve…It will look completely different for each person and family. As long as they are not harming God, themselves, or others, it is perfectly fine to grieve as much or as little as they feel the need to.
- Try to remember important dates and anniversaries and then show the grievers in your life extra support on those days…birthdays, death dates, anniversaries, holidays, etc.
- Don’t be afraid to mention their loved one’s name. Most grievers still like to talk about their loved one. Many feel frustrated when they feel like they can no longer talk about their loved one. It makes them feel as though people want for them pretend their loved one never existed. They still deeply love their loved one and they miss them so very much. Please allow them to talk about their loved one if they wish to.
- Grievers grow tired of advice and most cannot stand being told cliches…such as…“They’re in a better place” (They do not want their loved one in a better place…they want them to be here on earth with them)…“You can have more children” or “You’re young, you’ll find love again” (They do not want more children or another spouse…they are not looking to replace their loved one, they want the one they lost)…“God needed another angel” (God did not need another angel. He is surrounded by them in Heaven. Grievers also do not need another reminder to be frustrated with God)…“I know how you feel” (Nobody knows how a griever feels because everybody grieves differently. I actually had a lady tell me that she had lost her spouse and her neighbor came over and said she knew how the lady felt because she recently lost her dog. People say the craziest and most insensitive things to grievers)…“You’ll see them again” (Grievers realize that but it does absolutely nothing to comfort them because they want to see their loved one right now)…“Look for all the good in your life…develop a grateful heart…yadi yadi yada” (This is helpful for some…but to others it isn’t helpful at all. A griever will most likely eventually see all the remaining good in their life but they need to process their grief FIRST. They just lost an incredibly precious person in their life. They are not in a position to see anything other than their intense heartache for awhile…and that is totally okay. Once they thoroughly grieve, they will grow tremendously by seeing the remaining good in their life…and grievers truly have a higher capacity to see all the good and genuinely be grateful…but it takes time)
- Please do not assume that all grievers want to stay at home and no longer have a social life. Many do want to stay at home because of their intense sadness and grief, but some truly want to get out of the house to do activities. Ask them if they’d like to go out for dinner, to a movie, or out shopping. They may welcome some relief from their grief.
- Please do not expect your loved one who is going through grief to “move on”…”be the same as they once were”…or “snap out of it”…It is NOT going to happen. The greater the love, the greater the grief. Depending on the severity of their grief and loss, they may not ever be the person you once knew them to be. They most likely are not going to move on for other peoples sake…and they should not be expected to. And there is no such thing as snapping out of grief…It has to run it’s course…and the griever is not even in control of that. A griever can press forward which is not the same as moving on…but again, that takes time and it has to be the griever’s decision. Once grief affects someone, they will be affected for the rest of their life because grief is not an event, It has no end. Grief velcroes itself around a grievers heart and unfortunately, it is with the person for life. It doesn’t mean they will never smile or laugh again…it doesn’t mean that they won’t eventually find a “new normal”…and it doesn’t mean that they are sentenced to a life of sadness or despair…but it does mean that grief stays in their heart and grief continually morphs. They are going to have both good and bad days. Be patient with them and allow them to grow throughout their grief experience at their own pace.
I hope these ideas are helpful to someone and helps someone to understand grief a little better. I totally did not mean to sound harsh if I sounded that way…Just trying to encourage people to not add more grief and frustration upon a griever.
Be there for the grievers in your life. Love them. Let them know you care.
Just showing up and listening is the greatest gift you can give to them in their greatest time of need.
If you have any input on how to help those going through grief, please feel free to share your ideas in the comment section below.
Wishing everyone encouragement, comfort, & compassion!
Gratitude & blessings,
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