Supporting after loss

February 28th, 2013

I think there comes a time in our adult lives where the deaths happen faster than the weddings. In my early 20’s (gaahh, I’m late 20’s!), the weddings were happening all over the place, certainly more than the funerals.

Unfortunately, I think the seasons have switched. Now most of my friends are married and it has become a season of elderly parents, grandparents and others in failing health. In addition to those older than us, it’s also unfortunately been the season of miscarriages and child deaths. It’s been the switch from “Congrats!!” to “I’m so sorry for your loss.”  In fact, my family has called this the Season of “4 funerals and a wedding,” a ploy on the old movie “4 weddings and a funeral” {terrible movie, by the way…)

Sigh… it’s a crappy season.

In addition to my own personal losses, I’ve also been a witness to a number of losses within my career – the life of a nurse I suppose. It’s an unfortunate part of life, but in all the losses I’ve witnessed, there have been a few common denominators in helping get through the loss.

So whether your season of “Losses” vs” New Life” has switched over yet, there are a few tips to help our struggling friends in their times of loss:

1). Always, always, always acknowledge the loss. Some people want to talk about it, some people don’t. But even if they don’t want to talk, a simple “I’m so sorry for your loss” or “I’m so sorry for what you’re going through” text really means the world. My husband is one of those who falls in the “don’t talk about it” category, and even so, when we went through a difficult period a couple years ago, the support he got through brief messages meant the world to him. And conversely, the ones who didn’t acknowledge it, due to their own discomfort, were the ones that Merrick felt the most let down by. Even if it’s not a death per se, even acknowledging, “How is your Mom doing in chemo?” or the like is more than helpful and shows you do care.

2). And on that same note, let go of your own discomfort. It’s NOT about you. It’s about being there for your friend. If death, illness and loss makes you uncomfortable, just think how much worse your friend is experiencing it.

3). Give them the opportunity to talk. Unlike my husband, I {not surprisingly} fall into the “talk it out” category. When acknowledging your friends loss, ask them if they want to share and let them know you’re here for them whenever they’re ready to talk. I sometimes just need a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. But I can’t have that healing if no one brings it up as acceptable to talk about first. Your hurting friend may not bring it up out of politeness of your feelings.

4). Be present. If going to a hospital/funeral/memorial is able to fit in your schedule, be there. If there’s not an opportunity to be at the event, be present to your friend. Take them out to lunch, coffee or just go for a walk. Let them know you’re there.

5). Hug is out. For some, touching is awkward, but for others {like myself}, a genuine hug or an understanding touch are healing. If you’re hesitating on the hug, just go for it. If it’s awkward, it’s awkward. Oh well.

6). Anticipate the needs. We’ve all heard for new moms it’s important to make a dinner schedule or to just commit to saying, “I’ll come over on Thursday and do your dishes”  and to help the new Mamma get some sleep. This is also applicable for those grieving too. Depending on how close the loss was will determine how incapacitated your grieving friend will be. If you’re noticing they’re not their normal, happy selves, don’t hesitate to step in. Besides, you truly can’t have too many frozen lasagnas! :)

7). Follow up. So you were there during the immediate grieving period. But what happens six months down the road? Your friend has most likely resumed a normal semblance of life to all outside appearances, and we’ve all moved on without thinking about the loss anymore. But your friend thinks about that loss every.single.day. Follow up a few months later with a card or a check-in to see how they’re doing. Those coming months are really lonely and a little check-in can make all the difference.

…And on that happy note, I’m off to the Frozen Tundra! It’s about high time for a Michigan-fix anyway ;) Stay warm, my friends.

One Response to “Supporting after loss”

  1. Wow, this blog post was just what I needed to read tonight… Thank you!

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