What to Say or Do?

Over the last two months, while engaging in my media interviews, talking to new colleagues or clients, one thing I noticed that would often be brought up is “not knowing what to say or do for a friend / family member at a time of grief / loss”.

I have written about it in my book, Death Expands Us, and many of my new colleagues I have met all expressed a similar experience in that after the death of their loved one, they felt as though people moved away from them.

Perhaps in fear of not knowing what to say / saying the “wrong” thing or not knowing how to help them. Alternatively, perhaps some people feel overwhelmed and under-equipped to support those going through grief / loss / death.

All of us also echoed, that our experience of people moving away after a death / loss, for whatever reason, that it left us feeling more isolated and alone. That avoidance didn’t serve anyone.

Which is what prompted me to write this blog as, sometimes, there can be this misconception it has to be grand gestures or words to be useful or valid, which it most certainly doesn’t have to be.

For me and others I have spoken to on this topic, the two main points seem to be:
 1. Honesty
 2. It doesn’t have to be big

Regarding honesty, that can range anywhere from saying to the person:
 “I am so sorry for your loss; I have no idea what to say or do, but please know I am here to help and support in any way I can.”
 “ I am so sorry for your loss; I have no idea what you are going through as I haven’t experienced it myself, so please let me know what you need during this time.”
 “I am happy to sit and listen, provide the safe space for you to talk. However, my help may be limited as I am not a coach / counselor, but I am here for you as a friend / family, etc.”

I would like to point out, when offering help or support, as part of honesty, please be genuine in that offer. I and many others have experienced people saying they will help, however, when it came to it, the offer wasn’t so readily available.

In terms of it doesn’t have to be big, by this I mean it is easy for us to feel our way of helping and supporting has to be big, physical, material things.

Whereas, especially in those initial days and months, sometimes, the smaller but real / sincere gestures really can make a huge difference.

For example:
 Letting the person know, if they are up to it, you want to visit and that nothing needs to be said if they don’t want to, that you are happy just to sit and read a book, or watch a movie with them.
 Offering to help do their laundry, look after their pet, do grocery runs, etc.
 Generally, especially initially, appetite is lost, but making some healthy meals they can have readily in their fridge to help maintain their strength and immunity during that stressful time.
 If it is a female friend / family member and you know they like having their nails painted, offer to come around and paint their nails (even if you do a terrible job) put face masks on, and eat chocolate. Having you there and doing something you know brings them joy would speak volumes and mean the world to them.
 If it is a male friend / family member and you know they like fishing / motorcycle riding, offer to take them out, into a new environment, a new space, away from home, just some time away from identifying / associating with the loss or grief.

Based on how you know them and your relationship with them, you will know, if going to their house and doing something with them versus taking them out and away from their house, will be more beneficial.

The main thing is, don’t be afraid to try. The details of doing something at home or outside of the home is not what they will see, remember or appreciate then and in time to come.

If you enjoyed this blog, please recommend or share it to help others find it. Also, click respond and let me know ways you can relate or have found helped you.