What to Do when Someone You Know Loses a Loved One
My friend’s mother died when we were in junior high school. Unexpectedly, she had a brain aneurism at work. I attended the memorial service, so very uncomfortable with the idea of death and unschooled in what to do, I turned into an entertainer. At the reception I told jokes and stories, trying to keep it light for me. Viscerally I was so uncomfortable, my nerves had gotten me. I didn’t once say a word about her mother.
Fast forward decades and I’ve lived a bit longer and stumbled my way through awkward situations, including the death of my own loved ones. This is what I’ve learned. When we discover someone we love has died or experienced death within their family, immediately send something. Send a phone call, a card, a FB post, a gift, flowers, home cooked meals, something. Let them know they are loved. My favorite? Cards and gifts, something personal. A massage, a mani-pedi, a book on grief, something. Grief is filled with so many paradoxical emotions, the griever often feels splayed open and flattened.
Connection at this point of a journey is a powerful bonder. If it is possible to attend the service, do, and come equipped with some heartfelt words.
After my dad died, my sister said, “I had no idea this is what grief feels like. From now on I will send a card to anyone I know who has lost someone.” And, she has. Faithfully combing the obits, should she discover a friend’s parent, sibling, or spouse has passed away, she is on it.
A great comfort to those who are grieving is listening. Listening to any and everything they want to talk about, contrary to my chatty Cathy young self. Also observe. Is the person eating? Be mindful of their needs as they often aren’t processing them for themselves. Speaking to memories is powerful. Remember the card I mentioned above? Any memory you have about the deceased, funny or heartfelt is welcomed. Put it in writing on the card. And, have no expectation or attachment as to how the bereaved behaves toward you. This is their time, not yours. Giving them that gift, the gift of seeing them and supporting them ends up softening and enlivening your own being. You give yourself the gift of loving, no reciprocation is necessary.
Bring the family into your prayers. Miracles happen when ideas are dosed with loving prayers.
As I awoke to my awkward behavior when I was younger, I contacted my friend decades later with a heart felt apology for the death of her mother. Finally, I was able to listen to her story of loss, and change, and growth, and who she has became as an adult woman without a mother. I like to believe it is never to late to do the soulful thing.