As discussed in our previous post, grief can show up in countless ways. So, there is not one “sure-fire” way for loved ones to respond. Oftentimes, those who are suffering a loss aren’t even capable of determining or voicing what it is they need. All that said, there are a number of ways one can approach someone in grief.
Listening can be the biggest gift. Sometimes, people who have experienced a great loss simply need to talk through what’s going on inside their heads and hearts. Those in the caretaking role don’t even need to have any answers. In fact, it’s often best to avoid trying to provide solutions; the act of silently allowing your loved one to speak – or rant or cry or try to work through speechlessness – is often exactly what they need.
Because of the intensity of a situation in which someone has lost someone dear to them, they often don’t have the capacity to identify what kind of help they need. In these circumstances, consider offering specific assistance: a ride, doing the laundry, walking the dog, bringing a meal, taking the kids to school. By telling someone precisely how you can help – you are relieving them of decision-making which is often beyond their capacity.
Some people in the depths of grief may benefit from a change of scenery. If your loved one seems to be stuck – not leaving the house or incapable of gaining any kind of momentum following a loss – think about taking them on a walk or a beautiful drive. Or offer to accompany them to a bookstore or art gallery or join them at a social engagement. Yes, being alone might be what many need to process their loss. But loved ones can assess if solitude is becoming unhealthy and step in to get people out and about if they feel it would help.
Empowering people to practice self-care can also be a meaningful way of caretaking. Sleep can be elusive and anxiety and worry overwhelming. The Good Grief Gift Box offers a number of ways for people to tend to their own needs – providing flower essences, bath salts, teas, and aromatherapy all structured to support the grieving process.
Just as there are a wide variety of ways in which people grieve, there are a vast number of ways to provide care. Sometimes, simply displaying sympathy and offering condolences is all that is needed. A call, a card, fresh cut flowers – all these tokens of love demonstrate to people the most essential truth - that they are not alone.