Loss can be tremendous grief over the loss of a lover. A parent. A child. A grand parent. A beloved pet. And for some, it can actually be a relief. It can mean a new found freedom from the burdens of caregiving, from fraught relationships, and possibly new-found independence. Or it can be both. You cannot use your personal experiences with grief to ever infer how someone else is feeling when someone close to them dies. Read Empathy Basics on our site for some great articles that give you initial grounding. And read on.
- You can always reach out. If you don’t know someone well, don’t call. Send a card or email instead. Distant friends–if you saw it on Facebook, you can post a reply!
TIP: Try avoiding asking a person who is grieving for their postal address if you can and find it some other way.
- Share memories. For family and friends of a person who died and lived a solitary life, even the most remote, endearing memory from anyone is welcome.
- Ask your friend how they are doing about their loss, even several months and years after the fact.
- Food, flowers, a gift to a cause the loved one cared about. Participate in a walk related to the cause of death.
- If you have the mind for it, remember any kind of important date like birthday, anniversary, etc. Think you are dredging up sad memories? Believe us, while the feelings of loss changes over time, they never go away.
- Are you close? DO come help around the house, even when not asked. Dishes, lawn, whatever you can do to show some care taking. Are you a neighbor? Sweep their front yard. Just do it and go back home. No need to get showy about it- let the act speak for itself. Are you a colleague? Leave a card or favorite donut on the desk.
NO, NO, NO!
- Avoid perspective making comments like “At least he lived a full life” or “At least you were with her when she died”. The griever wants to come to that realization in their own time.
- Canned cards with pretty sayings need a personal note as well, even if only to say, “I have no idea what to say” and “I’m sorry”.
- You may be curious how your friend’s life will change financially now that grandpa Warbucks has died… But unless you’re very close, don’t ask about inheritance.
“It’s so hard for people to know what to do or say when someone commits suicide – every gesture was like rain falling on drought-stricken land because I was so deprived of the normal wealth of condolence gestures that people usually receive when someone dies.”
A special note about suicide:
The death of a person who dies from suicide can be shrouded in the circumstances surrounding their death like mental illness or substance abuse. Addressing how to support someone with this kind of loss deserves some real time and care and the internet cannot do this just. At its core:
- Reach out. Reach out. Suicide is stigmatizing for the family and can make people feel shunned.
NO, NO, NO!!
- Don’t diagnose why this happened. It’s not your call to make. Just be there for your friend who is no doubt trying to figure this out.
“The more we can appreciate the small gifts we receive, the more we can appreciate the small gifts we can give.”
A special note about losing a child.
It’s so painful that many of us feel inappropriately called to blunt the pain. You can’t protect people from this kind of pain.
- Invoke the name of the child whenever you can. Their memories belong almost entirely to the parent; a wider of circle of remembrance is needed.
NO, NO, NO!!
- Don’t ever, ever diminish the loss by reminding parents of their other children, or that they can have other children.
- Don’t ever, ever diminish the tragedy of the loss by suggesting it was part of some higher power’s plan. A seriously tiny handful of parents may feel that way, but if that realization ever comes, it comes to the parent first.
Thank someone for a kind gesture they did for you.
Send a Card