We recently discussed what to say to a grieving friend. But a visit is just the beginning to how you can help a grieving friend. As a stable outside force, you can be active where the mourner can’t.
Offer Tangible Help
It’s tempting to finish a conversation with “If there’s anything you need, call me” or “Let me know if I can do something,” but these are inadequate statements that ring hollow to a mourner.
“Your friend won’t call,” Megan Divine, a licensed counselor, says bluntly in an article for the Huffington Post. “Identifying a need, figuring out who might fill that need, and then making a phone call to ask is light years beyond their energy levels, capacity or interest.”
Instead, make concrete suggestions. Find a mundane chore like cooking, mowing the lawn, raking leaves, walking the dog, or picking up the mail and offer to come by at such-and-such time to do it. You can also organize coworkers, church members, or other community members to cover more work as a group.
Stay By Their Side
Around six weeks after the death, support for a mourner tapers off. The flowers and cards and calls and visits stop. Previously attentive friends are drawn elsewhere. They may even act like the mourner should be “getting over it.” In reality, grief is a far more nuanced process.
What you can do is begin to encourage the mourner to reengage with activities they once enjoyed and neglected while in intense grief. If they previously enjoyed running, ask them to come jog with you. If they used to do yoga every week, tell them about a new class you’re joining. If they knitted constantly before the death, bring a pattern for scarves and mittens and suggest you work on items to donate together.
Remember Lifetime Grief
When a birthday, anniversary, or holiday prompts someone to begin grieving again, it isn’t a step backward. In fact, it’s a healthy and necessary part of processing life without the lost.
“We do not resolve or recover from our grief. These terms suggest a total return to ‘normalcy’ and yet in my personal, as well as professional, experience, we are all forever changed by the experience of grief,” says Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD of the Center for Loss.
Mark sensitive dates for your friend on your calendar. Check in with them and offer to take them out for coffee or another activity. They might want to be alone, but they might also need a supportive friend who knows how to talk to them.