Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thoughts on Grief part 2

This is the last entry for my thoughts on grief, and then i promise to get back to my regularly scheduled program (whatever that is:)
part 2: Ways you might help a friend who is grieving.

1. Don't say weird stuff. There are a lot of weird things that people say when they are trying to comfort someone who has lost a loved one. My least favorite was "God needed him more than you did." and (to a friend of mine who lost her dad) "At least he died of cancer and not in a car wreck." (WHAT???). These people said these things with the best of intentions, but they just don't help.
In my opinion, the no fail response to someone dying is "i'm sorry." Death hurts, there's no way around it. there's no catchy phrase that can extinguish it. just an honest, "i'm really sorry" is a thoughtful response.

2. Be there for the long haul. There are lots of folks around in the wake of a death; lots of casseroles, lots of cards, lots of flowers, (all very kind and helpful things). But a couple months later, when you actually feel ready to engage with people, it feels as though all those people who cared are gone. Its as if the world is spinning on without you and you are stuck in one place. Asking your friend how they are doing 1 month, 2 months, 6 months, 8 years after is so helpful. it shows that you haven't forgotten their loved one either. Just keep reaching out a hand to them; seeing how you can help, and checking how their heart is doing.

3. Remember the date/time of the loved one's death. I know this is so hard, i'm terrible at remembering any kind of dates. But if you can somehow remember the date or general time when your friend's loved one died and check on them then, it means a LOT. I have a friend who calls me every year on christmas eve (the anniversary of my dad's death) and i appreciate it so much that someone would take the time out of their day (christmas eve, no less) and consider how i'm doing. I can pretty much guarantee that your friend is thinking about their loved one (on that day) and knowing that you are too will make them feel so supported and validated.

4. Remember with them. if you knew the person's loved one and are able to share good memories with them, do it! maybe wait for the right time (you'll know). But don't think, "oh, i don't want to tell them that, it will make them sad." The good memories that people have shared about my dad are priceless to me. Its like i get to have him back for a second or like i get a new little piece of who he was.

5. listen. There are lots of things that your friend might need to say: fears, doubts, regrets, grievances, "what ifs". Some of them seem so terrible that she doesn't even want to say them outloud. create a safe place for her. You could tell her, "you can say anything to me and i will not judge your for it" and mean it. and just let her talk. don't try to solve her problems, just listen.
6. finally, love unconditionally. Your friend may not be the easiest person to be with as he is grieving. grief has a lot of faces and anger/irritability is certainly one of them. forgive him when he lashes out. realize how raw he is inside. I remember one day in my dorm room, going to my mini fridge and getting out a diet pop, which somehow jogged this really sad memory of my dad being sick. I burst into tears and just cried on my bed. My roomate was trying to study, and just ignored me. It was pretty terrible. Even when their pain seems irrational, and is an annoyance to you, just be there for them. just love.

I hope this encourages you to reach out to your friends this holiday season and do little things to show you care and you haven't forgotten their pain.

thanks very much for taking ten hours out of your day to read this :)

p.s. this artwork is from the very talented and thoughtful artist Shirae


  1. so exactly right. had rather a hideous 'break up' with friend who couldn't 'cope' with me and my changing moods after my dad died...case in point! and the checking in down the track...yes! so appreciated right? x

  2. I send sincere love to all whom have lost someone dear to them in their lives, this christmas. Thank you, Maria for your kind heartedness!

  3. What a wonderful post. I think death and grieving are often ignored cause they are so difficult to talk about - which is all the more reason to discuss it.

    It is often so hard to know what to say. When I was at school our religion teacher ran a unit on grief, and said exactly what you did here - don't think you know what they are going through, don't say it was for the best - just tell them you care about them. I have always thought that teacher was pretty amazing - helping kids think about something no one else seemed to be willing to talk about.

  4. This is such solid advice. I definitely agree about trying to remember the date or time of a loved ones passing, knowing it and being extra supportive during that time can be such a comfort <3

    p.s. following you :)


  5. These are such wonderful things. That is crazy how people say some really sad and stupid things to those who are grieving. I think sometimes people think that they are doing the right thing but they are not too sensitive about the whole situation and how the person takes it.

    Anyway I read your last entry and was very moved by it but didn't know what to comment.

  6. Hey, M! I just wanted to say I just read this and your previous post on grieving, and wanted to give you a virtual pat on the back. Great, well-written, really thoughtful and helpful posts. Lots of love and warm feelings to you this holiday season! xo

  7. thank you so much for all the kind comments. i really appreciate you reading my thoughts.

  8. You are spot on with all of this. I am nodding and nodding and nodding over here. Thank you for taking the time to write up all of this wonderful stuff. You rock. XX

  9. I loved both your posts about grief. It's the most real advice I've heard on the topic for sure. :) Love you.

  10. This is such a thoughtful, well written post. Thank you for writing it; my sister's boyfriend was murdered last week and I have been having a hard time supporting her from across the country. It's good to hear suggestions from the person that's actually experienced it.

  11. Just found these through a link from here: http://www.sadiedeluxe.com/2011/03/thoughts-on-birth-and-death-and-small.html

    Very thoughtful advice, glad this is out there for people to read.