Losing someone can be one of the hardest experiences we have as humans.  In today’s podcast I share with you 8 ways you can support others through grief.

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Show Summary:

Today I want to about grief.  An amazing man who recently moved out of my ward and neighborhood passed away on Saturday and a lot of my thoughts have been centered around him, his wife, their family, and then reflecting back to other times when people I know have grieved and when I have as well.

I’ve experienced a lot of grief in my life, and it’s never something that is easy, but the way we think about the person, the situation, and the death, makes a big difference in how we experience grief.

For example – I’ve mentioned before that my Grandma passed away a few months ago.  She was in her mid 80’s, she had lived a long full life.  She had suffered from dementia the last few years and had had two broken hips in the last 6 months.  And while I love her deeply, and I was still so sad that she was gone and I wouldn’t  be able to talk with her and take care of her anymore, for me, I think of her death as a blessing.  She wasn’t suffering anymore.  She had lived a long full life, and I had done what I could to love her and take care of her to the very end.  

Now contrast that with another experience.  When I was 10-years old, my moms entire family was on vacation at lake and my 3-year old brother drowned and later passed away.  My entire family was heartbroken.  It was tragic.  We didn’t see it coming.  It wasn’t expected.  And it caused a lot of turmoil and grief in the lives of my entire family.  The grief consumed us for a long period of time.  It was awful.  

So today I want to go over 8 points on how you can support others and yourself through grief.

  1. Realize that grief is that it is different for everyone and every situation
    • Everyone experiences it differently and its different in every situation.  
    • Even if someone has gone through the exact same thing, their thoughts shape how they feel about it just as your thoughts shape how you feel about it.
    • For example – I had a miscarriage in between my 2nd and 3rd child.  I was only a few weeks along and because I had had 2 healthy pregnancies already, it wasn’t something that I was prepared for at all.  The day that it happened I was pretty upset by it.  I was sad that it was happening, but my thoughts were more along the lines of “I’m not sure why this is happening, but God knows best.  Maybe there would have been something wrong with this baby and God knows what I can handle.  I will be ok.  Everything will be ok.”  And I was able to recover physically and emotionally pretty well from it.
    • Another person may experience the exact same thing quite differently and I know plenty of women who have.  And their grief is valid!  It is their experience.  It may be absolutely devastating to them and I totally understand that.  Just because that wasn’t my experience, doesn’t make it any less valid or important.  It was a loss for them and they are allowed to grieve however they want.
    • I do want to point out again that our feelings come directly from our thoughts.  So while my thoughts about my miscarriage helped me recover fairly quickly, and someone else’s thoughts about theirs are different and maybe they struggle with it more, BOTH are valid.  But our feelings about it, do come directly from our thoughts and if you are choosing to stay in pain longer, that is totally fine.
  2. Meet the person where THEY are
    • Because everyone deals with grief differently, it’s important to find out where that person is in their grief how to best support them.
      • Some people want to be surrounded by family and friends and some people want to be left alone or to grieve with just a small support group
      • For some it may help them feel better hearing about others experiences, while some just want to focus on their own grief and not hear about others.
      • Some people want to stay busy to keep their minds and bodies from breaking down and not focus on the loss.  Others want to curl up in bed and cry.
      • All of the examples are valid.  Everyone grieves in their own way and we as friends and family (and sometimes its us!) have to realize that all of that is ok and its important to support them where they are.  To not push what WE think they SHOULD be doing on them, but let them grieve how they need to.
      • Now, that is not to say that if we are seeing signs of depression or not moving through the grieving process after a significant amount of time that we just leave it alone.  But initially, it is important to let them grieve how they need to.  But if it has been 6 months, a year or More and you are still seeing DAILY struggles, you may want to step in and see what can be done to help them.
  3. Stay in the present with the person that is grieving.
    • The last thing a person wants to hear when they are grieving is “they are in a better place” or “their work was finished” or something to that effect.  Just stay in the present.  
    • I love you and I’m sorry you are hurting.  I’m here to support you in whatever way you need right now.
  4. Don’t try to fix the unfixable
    • Watching someone in pain and grieving can sometimes be uncomfortable and we feel the need to try and fix it and make it better for them and to make it so that we aren’t uncomfortable anymore.  The pain will dissipate over time, but there is nothing you can do in the present to fix that.  Just be there to support.  Be willing to be uncomfortable so that you can support the person who is grieving.  Realize it isn’t about YOU and its only about THEM.
  5. Anticipate, don’t ask
    • Don’t ever say “Call me if you need anything”  When someone is grieving they are so caught up in it they can’t identify their own needs very well and definitely don’t have the capacity to ask at that point.  So anticipate.  Give concrete offers – “I will bring dinner at 5pm on Tuesday” or “I will be by each morning to take the kids for a little while.”
    • Then, be reliable
    • Realize that the normal every day stuff may be beyond their capabilities as well.  Dinner.  Taking care of kids.  Picking up prescriptions.  Ask about specific tasks.  While they may feel ok about you bringing dinner in, they may not be ok with you doing their laundry.
    • There are some tasks after a person passes that can be very difficult.  Picking out a casket, planning the funeral, flowers can be all overwhelming.  Ask what you can do to help or if they want you to go with them.  
  6. Run interference 
    • To someone who is grieving, the influx of people who want to show support can be overwhelming.  
    • Grief can be an intensely personal and private affair and having a bunch of different people coming in and out can be overwhelming.
    • A lot of times people don’t want to have to talk about what happened over and over and over (although some do) so minimizing the people around those that are grieving can be a good idea.
    • Have a Gatekeeper – one who is the designated point person to coordinate well-wishers, meals, tasks that need to be taken care, childcare is a good idea.
    • If you are NOT that person, respect the wishes of those who are grieving and go through the Gatekeeper.
  7. Get Support
    • If you are a primary support for someone who is grieving, make sure you have support too.  Supporting someone who is grieving can take a great emotional toll on you.  So its important you have support behind the scenes.
  8. Love
    • So much of grief is about love.  It about loving someone who is no longer there and love that has no place to go.
    • Above all – love that person who is grieving.  Show up. Say something.  Do something.  Be willing to not have all the answers but be there!
    • If possible, show the person who is grieving how much you cared about the person who passed away too.  A plant they can plant in their yard as a memory.  A scrapbook.  A crystal box for keepsakes.  A statue.
    • And remember the anniversaries.  Sometimes those can be just as hard and bring up all of the feelings again.
      • I like to put things on my calendar so that I can show up for that person in a loving way when I know they may be struggling.

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