Attend the funeral
Be sure to attend the funeral no matter what happens. This will be a major source of comfort for the bereaved as it will show them how much other people cared for their loved one.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can say to alleviate grief. So don’t pretend to know or have all the answers. Instead, listen and let them (if they want to) share their pain.
Reach out to the grieving
There is no substitute for presence. It’s not necessary that you say anything or try to solve the issue at hand. Rather, just be with the grieving. That alone can be extremely comforting.
Cook for the grieving
This may sound trivial but grief may cause people to lose the desire to cook or even eat. But if someone takes the time to prepare meals for the grieving, then not only will this be a gesture of love and comfort, but you will also help in maintaining the grieving nourished.
Help spread the message
By helping the bereaved share information concerning funeral arrangements or memorial services, you lift a huge burden off their shoulders. The fact is, during this sensitive time they will be emotionally and mentally drained and anything that they don’t have to deal with will be a huge help.
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Understand that everyone grieves differently
Grief is an emotionally complex and taxing phenomenon that will display itself in many varied ways. Understand that there is no right or wrong way to grieve and avoid telling the bereaved what he or she should feel or do.
Roll with the emotions
The bereaved is going through an intense emotional struggle. This may display itself with some extreme and erratic behavior such as yelling out in anger, crying uncontrollably, “snapping” at loved ones, etc. Do not judge the bereaved in this moment and definitely don’t take anything personal.
Do not rush things
Again everyone grieves differently and as such everyone heals differently. Some people can deal with their grief within months; others need more time (years even). Do not rush the bereaved; rather let healing come naturally.
Don’t steer the feelings away
It’s so important to let the grieving know that it’s ok to cry or to get angry, or even to say things that may seem uncharacteristic. Don’t try to reason with the bereaved by saying things to alter their behavior or their mood.
Silence is not a bad thing
If the bereaved doesn’t want to talk, don’t push them to do so. Instead, give them a heartfelt hug or even hold their hand. The key however, is to let the bereaved know that you are there, and that it’s OK to not say anything.
Let the bereaved talk about the deceased
People who are grieving may find it necessary to tell the story of how their loved one died. Listen and allow the bereaved to tell the story. This helps with coping and accepting the reality of what has happened.
Do not minimize the loss
Do not compare the bereaved’s grief to anybodies else’s grief. The bereaved needs to know that what he or she is feeling is natural but incomparable. There is no way anyone else can fully understand the impact of their grief.
Avoid these phrases
There are just somethings that should never be said to someone who is grieving. For example, phrases like “I know how you feel”, “it’s part of God’s plan”, “look at what you have to be thankful for”,”he’s in a better place now”,’it’s time to move on” all of these should be avoided at all costs.
Spend time with the bereaved
Grieving will take time and lots of it. As such; always make yourself available for the bereaved. Call to find out about their day; engage in walks and talks with the bereaved on a consistent basis; visit often and help around the house with chores and shopping; etc.
Do not try to “fix” the problem
Unless you are a professional, you should not be engaged in offering “solutions” to the bereaved. Rather, your role is that of someone who cares and is there for the bereaved in whatever way they need you to be.
Give them space
Your presence is crucial and comforting to the bereaved. Nevertheless, those who grieve may also need some time alone. Look out for the signals of distress and know when to give the bereaved space.
This cannot be stressed enough. The bereaved are going to be riding an emotional rollercoaster. One day they may seem fine and yet another day they may be completely distraught. Assure them that it’s ok and that you are there for them.
If you have any photos, keepsakes, or anything that can be affiliated with the loved one, consider creating a “memory package” which you can share with the grieving. It can be a great source of comfort.
Beware of the mask
Understand that people who are grieving may try to hide their emotions because they don’t want to burden people. Never force someone who is grieving to talk, but you may gently let them know that it’s OK to be real with you by asking questions like “how are you really feeling?” or “Are you really OK?”
Be aware of the holidays
Holidays can be emotionally difficult for people but this is especially true for those who are grieving. Be sure to remember the bereaved and help them cope with the added emotional toll. Invite them over for thanksgiving dinner or better yet, have dinner at their house if they are up for it. Be prepared to share some tears and lend a much needed shoulder to cry on.
Don’t shy away from saying the deceased’s name
You may feel like saying the deceased’s name may cause more harm than good, but this is not the case. By saying the deceased’s name you acknowledge the loss and help keep their memory alive. This can be a source of comfort for the bereaved.
Keep your promises
If you tell the bereaved you are going to do something, don’t fail to do it. Losing someone is abandonment enough and not falling through with your promises may add to the sense of abandonment.
Laughter is one of the best medicines for those who are grieving. Maybe not right after the tragedy, but in the weeks to come, don’t be afraid to crack a joke and reminisce over funny and silly stories.
Look out for the signs
On a much serious note, grief can take a disastrous toll on a person to where they contemplate ending their own life. Look out for suicidal signs such as an obsession with death, having no hope or reason to live, the increase use of alcohol, loss of interest in things they care about, etc. Familiarize yourself with these signs and don’t be afraid to involve a professional if needed.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to love. Let the bereaved know that he/she is loved and is not alone. Let them know that this loss, as painful as it may be, has not left them destitute.