How To Truly Help Someone Who Is Grieving

If you know someone who has suffered the sudden loss of a loved one in last night’s unthinkable Las Vegas Concert Massacre (or anyone for that matter), PLEASE read this before reaching out to them!

The only thing I would personally add to the amazingly accurate above-linked article is…

1. Do not judge their behavior in the immediate days that follow the loss. What we have always referred to as “shock” is actually a gift that allows us the ability to make unbearable decisions that have to be made. They will often look back on those days and not really know who that person was, if they remember it at all.

2. If wanting to send anything, consider that they are probably not wanting to eat or do more than hide under their covers. Although their mind is in limbo, their body is not. Things like toiletries, toilet paper, tissue, and other basic bodily function needs are very handy to have in bulk. There also might be people staying with them and trying to help; so paper and plastic dishes, cups and utensils are helpful, as well as food that can be reheated and available for the visitors.

3. Flowers: Gosh, it never occurred to me until suffering the loss of Max, that the last thing I wanted was something else that was beautiful and yet going to die. I could be the only one to feel this way, but candles were much preferred. It has been nearly 9 months and the flame that I have never let die without another one already lit, soothes my heart every time I pass by it.

4. Grief does not go in circles, it is more of a spiral which is sometimes spinning fast and other times slow. We don’t visit each emotion once, we visit them over and over again. Do not rush this process. The standard rule is that it can take up to two years to deeply grieve. There are so many firsts within the first year, that it is like losing that person all over again each time. If after two years your loved one is still not functioning, it is then time to be concerned about their future, wellbeing and to seek additional, professional assistance. Be grateful for every day that they get out of bed.

5. A person in grief will often not want to be “ok” because it will never be “ok” without their loved one. Do not judge this. Give them time.

6. It hurts to smile, nor does a person in grief want to be able to smile. Time can only help this.

7. Do not tell the person grieving how strong they are. Even if they are appearing to be strong, this is one time that they don’t want to feel like they need to be strong. It’s also not the time in their life that they feel proud to be strong. Telling them how strong they are just adds more pressure to remain strong.

8. Give without expectation. They often have no idea of who did and/or gave what. You would not want them to be worrying about being socially “correct” by adding the pressure of having to record, respond and remember who gave what. Give because you want to. Trust me…every act of kindness is sincerely appreciated. When every hour of every day is so incredibly painful, your one act of kindness, whether material or emotional, was a moment of peace and a reminder that all is not lost.

9. Know your own pain. We feel other people’s pain…”empathy”. If you are having a sad day and aren’t certain why, be sure to reach out to your loved ones and see if you are feeling THEIR pain. With so much loss of life in an instant, I anticipate that many of us will be feeling the pain of so many others. If you see a friend, child or loved one become unusually sad/depressed and yet they are not grieving the loss of someone, remind them that they are special and have such a huge heart, that they are feeling the pain of others. Don’t let them own the pain and possibly make self destructive choices believing that it is their own unexplainable pain.

10.  Share your positive, personal stories/memories of their loved one.  Whether now, next year or ten years from now, they will always want to hear how the one they loved is positively remembered by others.  It’s a way of keeping them alive by sharing new positive memories.  They can never hear/read too many good things about their lost loved one.

On a final note…save judgment for after the facts have been obtained. Let’s focus on the one’s grieving and need us RIGHT NOW.

P.S.  Thank you to everyone who has been so amazing through my personal grief.  Every act of kindness and understanding has been a moment of peace.

Erica Stubner

(These posts are in order of most recent.  To read Max’s Story, please scroll down)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.