Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. –from an Irish headstone
Death has provided another reminder that it’s always near. Recently, a co-worker told me that another co-worker had lost a loved one. Receiving news like this always makes my heart sink because I understand too well the pain and grief the person is going to feel.
In the last five years, I’ve lost my mother, brother, and father-in-law. Death has also visited my family’s corner of the world when our next-door neighbors lost their young son. Tragically, one of the Overland Park hate-crime victims went to high school with my daughter. News of suicides in our community has also shaken our foundation.
Preparing Your Soul
Even with these reminders, my family and I have a choice – you have a choice – and the choice is this: We can either give up and let death rob us of the daily joy of being alive or we can embrace the belief that this life prepares us for the next one, which is filled with even greater joy and happiness.
I believe there’s so much in store for my soul. It isn’t restricted to just what happens in this life.
Experiencing these tragedies has helped me understand how best to navigate the painful feelings that exist after losing a loved one. These events have strengthened my faith and have given me the tools needed to help others.
Here are the tools I use to help someone through the dark times. When you need to support someone who has a lost a loved one, I hope these tools bring peace to the person experiencing the grief, and to you:
- Listen with compassion. Allow the grieving person to share how they feel without offering solutions in return. Your job isn’t to fix what’s happened, but to be present so the bereaved knows he or she isn’t alone.
- Be willing to sit in silence. Sometimes the person grieving doesn’t feel like talking, but wants someone near. So, gently hold her hand or place your hand on his shoulder with the unspoken words, “I have you.”
- Help with everyday chores. Make sure the lawn gets mowed, the mail is brought inside or there’s fresh milk in the refrigerator. Focus on the small things so the bereaved has the time and space to do what’s important, which is to grieve.
- Prepare a warm meal. Eating is often the last thing on a grieving person’s mind, but their need to stay nourished is more important than ever. Don’t ask what they want to eat, just bring them a warm meal and then encourage them to eat.
- Send a card with a personal message. A thoughtful card with a handwritten message can help lift the griever’s spirits. The card will also remind him or her that you are still with them, at least in thought and prayer, during the times when you have to be away.
- Share your experience, if asked. Remember, the best support you can give is to listen with compassion. But if asked about how you got through a similar experience, be prepared to answer. Be honest and let them know what your experienced. Most of all, help them to understand that their feelings are rational.
- Offer to be the messenger. Agree to tell others of the loss. It can be overwhelming for the grieving person to either remember who needs to be informed, or what needs to be said. Take this burden from them.
- Help them find professional resources.. If the bereaved is having thoughts of self harm or feeling a depression that seems to be getting worse, offer to find a mental health therapist or spiritual counselor.
- Attend the memorial service or funeral. Be there for the bereaved. Let her know she has a hand to grab. Let him know there’s a shoulder to cling to.
- Be patient. Grief doesn’t follow a prescribed timeline. The grieving process is unique to the person experiencing the loss. The person will move to the next stage when the time is right, but not before.
- Give them hope that time will provide healing. Tell the person of your loss and the journey to healing you encountered. Let them know that even though they may not see it right now, there will come a day when the pain will lessen just enough to allow begin moving forward again.
- Give your support in the years ahead. A birthday, anniversary or holiday without the loved one can be painful. Be mindful of these difficult days and be willing to give your support once again.