When a family has gone through a loss, whether it be the loss of a child, pet, parent, friend, co-worker or relative, people want to know how they can help. Here are a few practical ways you can get involved.
1. Give Them Space
Often, when one is left raw and hurting from loss, they need space to re-group and heal before entering back in to society. Knowing when to back off is a good skill to develop.
2. Be Understanding
Those who are grieving will have mood swings, being hermit-like one day and needing company the next. Be patient with the person and do not show any frustration with their seemingly unpredictable needs. Be flexible and go with the flow.
3. Don't Be Shocked
Oftentimes, a hurting person will say things they don't mean. If your friend or loved one drops a cuss word or two, don't panic. They are trying to process their thoughts and may only know how to express themselves through the crudest of language.
4. Clean Something
Mop the floors. Clean out the refrigerator. Fold the laundry. Do something practical. They may not ever notice what you did, but it will help. Trust me. Also, don't pepper them with questions on where things are or how they like things done. Use common sense. If the person asks you to do something or use something different, comply without an argument.
Those who have faced loss want to talk about their loved one. Ask them what dad's favorite TV show was, their plans they had for their baby, where Spot liked to go on a walk. There is nothing worse than the feeling that no one cares about their loved one. Keep the memory alive and help find healing in meaningful conversation.
6. Send a Text
When our son passed away, a very dear friend took it upon herself to text me a verse from the Bible every morning. They were the first thing I read upon waking. I don't know how I would have gotten through the first month without those texts. If you or your friend/loved one is not religious, text them positive thoughts or kind words. They will be a healing balm.
7. Send Snail Mail
In a day where so much communication is done electronically, snail mail is a treat. Send those cards and notes as often as you can. Getting something in the mail may be their only bright spot in the day.
8. Bring Food
Food is very helpful in the days following a loss. Often, families are flooded with food at the very beginning, but within a few weeks they are back to trying to cook for themselves. Ask them about meals. If they have plenty of food, wait a few weeks or even a month before bringing a meal. Be sensitive about any food allergies or diet restrictions. Restaurant gift cards are also a nice idea. They don't have to cook (neither do you!) and they are able to get out of the house for a little while.
9. Take them Out
If your friend or loved one is starting to tread the dangerous waters of deep depression, becomes suicidal or refuses to see or talk to anyone for days on end, take them out. Get them out of the house, even if it's only for a ride to the other side of town and back. They may be upset with you at first, but they will thank you later.
Cry with those who have lost. Let them know that you, too are sad, that you hurt when they hurt, that you hurt because they hurt.