I remember very vividly the phone call I received leading up to my sister’s death. What happened after that is a bit of a blur, however I do know I felt paralyzed, unable to think straight, and unsure of what to do.
When a loved one dies, the overwhelming thoughts and emotions can make it difficult to function. Grieving people likely don’t know what they need and are unlikely to ask for help.
As you learn that someone you know has lost a friend or family member, it’s perfectly acceptable to offer your prayers, support and love. It’s also important to know that saying “My thoughts and prayers are with you” or “Let me know if you need anything” are empty, generic words that provide nothing useful for a grieving person to act upon.
If you believe someone who just lost their loved one is going to respond to your empty words with something you can help with, you are wrong and out of touch with what it’s like to experience loss. What is most useful is tangible support that doesn’t require much effort from the grieving person.
Grieving people need you to extend practical offers to help that don’t require them to spend much time thinking about what they need. Some specific examples of how you can help are:
Organize meals through Meal Train
Organize a group of friends to do yardwork
Put together a basket of snacks
Help with chores
Care for their kids
Send a gift card
Sit with them and listen
The best form of grief support is specific and action-oriented. It is this type of support that will best benefit the grieving person and be the most meaningful.