How To Be There For Your Grieving Loved One

photo courtesy of crosswalk.com


Grief is not linear. It is up and down, sideways and crossways. It ebbs and flows. Grief has no agenda or timeline, no matter how much you try to negotiate with it for one. Grief has a mind of its own, one that rarely makes sense to you. It moves deep into your soul and resides there for as long as it wants. It will then come and go as it pleases with no regard to your body’s curfew or rules. Grief becomes a permanent dweller within because it has no where else to go. Grief, as one recently discovered quote tells me, “is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”

“Grief is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”

Oh yes. That is perfect. Grief is the weight of love that can not be reciprocated or requited. When a loved one dies, the love we have for them turns into this heavy ball that can’t be thrown to them any longer. There’s no more “I love you’s” said in return, no more hugs, phone calls or sound of their voice.  The loss of that person is deafening and the build up of the love unable to be given directly to that person is beyond horrible. Instead, we have to learn to navigate a new reality that will somehow appease the Grief within enough to allow it to move on. But, like a forgetful tenant, Grief will always leave something behind. Like the forgotten book, or important document or favourite pair of shoes in the top of the closet, Life then becomes about living with that leftover piece that’s now with you forever. The downs will still hit out of nowhere but they won’t be as bad. The lows will still come but they won’t stay as long. We find a way to release the love for them in other ways, ways that honours their soul and their place in our lives. I created a closing ceremony for my angel baby and it has helped my healing process immensely. I will blog about this on a different day when the wound of my miscarriage has scabbed over a bit more.

For now, I realized a few things friends and family can do for their loved ones grieving. Read below:

How To Help Someone Who’s Grieving

Send Comforting Aids

When I got home from the ultrasound that informed us the baby had no heartbeat, I wandered around my house in a daze for over an hour. I couldn’t decide what to do with myself. My world had come crashing down, altering my reality forever. I didn’t know if I should watch TV, do the dishes, pretend it never happened, have a bath, scream, punch the wall or what. It was awful. Because of our mushy, devastated brains, we need to rely on others to make decisions for us. Literally, in the midst of grieving a huge loss, decision making becomes completely obsolete. Everything from choosing clothes to eating to bathing feels like the hardest tasks EVER.

To help your bereaved friend/family member, I suggest sending/bringing them comforting aids. By comforting aids I mean books, movies, magazines, comfortable pajamas/lounging clothes, chocolate, tea, snacks, puzzle books etc. Easy, mind numbing, time passing gifts that bring a semblance of comfort and require no thought are one of the best things you could do. I scrolled through Netflix for days trying to find something that would distract me, maybe make me laugh, and more importantly, would help pass the time. I found nothing and therefore spent a lot of time just staring into the void. I think if maybe I had a good book series or a borrowed movie I would’ve found some small pieces of joy between the pages or on the screen. But again, going to a library or deciding on a Netflix series was impossible!

Do *Something*

Us humans love rituals and the act of doing something in times of difficulty. Think about it, we have funerals, wakes, eulogies. We send flowers and food and prayers. We light candles and ask our friends to send positive vibes and love to those in need. We donate money and time and help our community however we can. It’s the beauty of being human. When someone is grieving, they appreciate that their Grief is being acknowledged, that the loss is being acknowledged and that you are united with them in their struggle. I asked my friends to light a candle for our angel baby and receiving the pictures people took warmed my heart and made me happy to see people honouring our loss with us. Acts of solidarity make us feel less alone and more supported by our loved ones. We had friends send flowers, food, tea, candles, texts and every single one was received with grace and appreciation. I had a couple other friends who offered to take our daughter for the day. That was hugely appreciated as well as parenting was out of the question. Even a simple text message saying, “I’m sorry for your loss” is appreciated. Grieving people welcome the acknowledgement and the compassion.

Bring Food

I mentioned this in my CBC interview. Food is another one of those interfering tasks a bereaved person can’t handle. The thought of cooking or even choosing a meal seems gigantic and impossible. No one grieving has room to think about food despite our basic human requirement for sustenance. We received a lot of meals, most of them dinners. And while we appreciated every single delicious bite, pork loin for lunch didn’t seem reasonable or practical for one person. Thankfully, my one girlfriend brought lunch meats, some sliced cheese and homemade bread. Lunch was served for two days. It was an amazing gesture that went outside the normal realm of people typically bringing dinners. Other friends brought snacks. This was welcomed as I could leave them in my husbands spot in the bed and just roll over whenever I wanted to munch on something. Leaving the bed for food was daunting so in bed treats were, well, a treat! If dinner is what you want to send, I suggest bringing freezable, easy to pop in the oven/crock pot meals. If it’s lunch, think easy! I ate a lot of charcuterie type meals because cooking wasn’t going to happen.

Send Texts That Specifically Say “No Need To Respond”

I had a lot of friends send texts and messages that said, “no need to respond but….” Most were just messages of love and support and letting us know we were in their prayers or on their minds. It was nice to not feel obligated to respond when I knew I had nothing to say other than “thank you” which was paltry in comparison to what I actually felt reading them. But I was empty, my mind was blank and communicating with the outside world was not something I could do. So I wouldn’t reply and I didn’t feel guilty for it because of their understanding of the situation. The other side of these types of messages was that there were no “bumper sticker” quotes or typical bereavement sympathies. I knew they were sorry for our loss and they knew they didn’t need to say the Hallmark card words to try and make me feel “better.”

Read My Cues

Sometimes I had moments where I wanted to talk to someone so I’d call a friend. If she didn’t answer and she called back later, I may not have answered because the desire to talk had passed. Don’t take it personally. I ignored a lot of phone calls. I responded with two word texts a lot. I wasn’t great company when people stopped in. Sometimes I seemed fine and would laugh and share stories and participate in the conversations. Other times, I disappeared to the sanctuary of my bedroom. Don’t take it personally. Once in awhile I wanted to vent, cry and talk through my pain and my friends would clue in and just listen. There was no trying to change my perception or mutters of pity. They simply listened. More often than not, I wanted distraction so they’d regal me with stories of their kids or their work and I’d love getting lost in those moments. There is nothing to take personally in grief. Just read the cues and know that the focus is on the person, their family and their loss. They’re not thinking about anyone or anything else when grieving.

Just Love Us

Be patient with us. Be gentle with us. Moreover, just love us. Plain and Simple.

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