In 2005, I suffered through the deaths of my mother, husband and an uncle. The grieving process has given me time to reflect on my needs and how the people around me reacted during that very difficult time. I needed strength and comfort and what I observed was loving people that didn't know what to say. Most people have never learned any skills in how to support a loved one through grief.
I was confronted with our friends who didn't know how to treat me now that I no longer had a spouse and therefore was no longer a couple. Suddenly I was not invited to participate in the things that we used to. After the initial 60-90 days following the death of my husband, I noticed people wanted me to be back to normal. I now understand this because it was only my life that changed, not theirs. I needed to adjust. I encourage those who suffered loss to ask for what they need and I have put together some suggestions to help loved ones understand and support those through their time of grief.
You don't have to understand their loss, just continue to be supportive.
The one who suffered the loss wants to talk about their loved one, they want to remember. They don't want everyone to act like they never lived and it is time to move on. This support should be on-going and could be year after year.
Let your loved one cry and feel the loss, be sure you hold their hand and let them know you are there for support.
Immediately following the death of a spouse, life can seem overwhelming with the thoughts of making decisions alone and assuming the role of your departed spouse. This is a great time to step in for a period of time and offer assistance with those tasks you may have been aware that the spouse performed.
If the loss has now left someone a widow, it is more important than ever to include that person in social plans. It can be as simple as a dinner invitation, or an inclusion to events that you would have previously invited the couple. Understand that the widow has to bear the grief of being alone they don't want to bear the additional grief of being excluded. Make them feel welcome in your group.
Life does go on, except for the one left behind. Life stands still and it is never to often for you to ask how they are doing and asking how you can be of help. Remember as life goes on so does the house maintenance, yard work, car repairs, finances, and many other tasks the widow could use ongoing help with particularly in the case of the elderly.
Holidays and other significant dates are difficult for anyone suffering a loss because those dates are still important and the memories of good times gone by. Acknowledging these significant dates to your loved one is very important because you are telling that person you remembered and know this is a difficult day or season.
Offer to help your loved one sort through the personal belongings of the one who has passed, that could be a few months or years after the passing. Understand each person deals with this very personal task differently.
When a minor child loses a parent, talk about the parent fondly and reassure the child it's OK to talk about the deceased parent.
Encourage children to find ways to honor the memory of the deceased parent in whatever way is comfortable for them.
Ask the child periodically how they are doing and ask if they want to talk with you about the deceased parent or how they are feeling after time has passed.
Offer to accompany your loved one to a grief therapy group if they are hesitant to go alone.
If you feel your loved one is suffering on-going depression or any other health issues, encourage them to seek professional help. You can offer assistance in locating a professional and even drive them to appointments this could be very supportive.
Loss is difficult when going through it, being more attentive to the feelings and needs of those left behind to deal with the loss is the greatest gift you can give them.