So my grandpa died, and while I wanted to use the word recently, the reality is it has been six months.
I knew his passing would alter my world, but even using my best therapist skills on myself, I was not prepared when it actually happened. Grief is like an amoeba-it is always changing shape and a struggle for those in the thick of it and those who love the people moving in it.
I am often asked by those who know someone who has experienced loss, “What can I do?” “What should I say?” They become riddled with anxiety thinking about saying or doing the wrong thing. They distance themselves from the other person to “give them space” when in all reality they are just using it to avoid their own feelings that have now bubbled up. I’m tired of seeing people muck this up. I’m tired of people mucking this up for me. So let me give you a fool-proof guide to supporting those you love while they begin and continue on their grief path.
Show up. Really, it’s that simple. Show up and give suggestions on what you can do to help. When in the midst of big feelings, it is hard for people to identify what they need so be prepared to make an offer. It can be as simple as running to the store, or in good ole Midwest fashion bring a meal. Offer to walk the dog, mow the lawn or take on some kiddos. Offer to just sit.
Don’t try to “fix” the feelings encompassed in grief and don’t assume one is “over” their loss! One of the number one complaints I hear come from those that have lost is that people forget about the process of grief. That after enough time – whatever that means – the person grieving is okay or at least should be able to get through the day without crying. Please don’t try to fix feelings; they aren’t there to be fixed. You will also be judo chopped at my house by saying some cliché statement like “he is in a better place now” and gloss over the immense amount of pain currently being experienced. This process is unique to everyone, so let your friend or family member drive their own grief bus.
It’s okay to talk about the person who passed. Since my grandfather’s death, no one has murmured a word about it-literally not one single word to me. Continue to be present far longer than you think you need to be and when in doubt just ask. Remember that saying “Life’s a journey, not a destination”? So is grieving. My grandfather was the best human being ever and quite frankly I enjoy talking about him-though I might cry on you these days. I want to share all the wonderful qualities he embodied and I think to a certain extent that will also help keep my memories alive and well.
Your friend or family member will continue to need your support as there is no way of going back or fully getting over it. It can be through small acts of kindness or just being mindful and present when spending time with them. Hopefully this will save you any undue stress and from being judo chopped!
Love. Love. Then love again.