By Rachel Fitzgerald
A Port in a Storm: Being There for the Bereaved
Everyone grieves the loss of a loved one in different ways. When someone you care about is going through the bereavement process, you can feel helpless to do something supportive. At Weathered Raindrop, our whole goal is to provide people who are hurting and grieving a way to find some peace and joy while weathering the storm. There are some simple things that you can do to be there for a friend or family member experiencing a loss. We hope this advice is helpful!
Taking the First Step
While this first bit of advice is straightforward, it can be exactly what a grieving person needs from you — to just be there and reach out in their pain. If you’re worried that you may be needlessly stirring up painful emotions for them, in all reality, they are most likely living in that pain constantly. You bringing up their loss isn’t something they weren’t already thinking about, in other words. You may see, however, that when you express genuine sympathy and compassion for your hurting loved one, they can respond gratefully, because they will know that you care about them by taking action.
Read Their Emotional Response
In most cases, it is a good idea to broach the subject of your loved one’s loss. The next step can be just as important as initially reaching out. Usually, someone who is grieving will appreciate the opportunity to verbally process their feelings with you. Other times, however, they may make it clear that talking is not something that will help them at the present moment. In this case, the best thing you can do is back down for a while. As long as you’ve made known that you are thinking about the person and that you’re available when and if they feel like speaking about their loss, you can be content that you’ve done enough.
Small Gestures Go a Long Way
There are times when the old adage “actions speak louder than words” holds true. When words don’t seem to be enough to communicate your love and concern for the bereaved, consider making a small but meaningful gesture. Small gifts, letters, meals, and appropriate hugs or shoulder squeezes can mean the world to someone who is experiencing loss. Weathered Raindrop has particular expertise in this area. As founder, I have personally suffered loss through miscarriages, a full term infant and my 4 year old son.
Hopefully, the friend or family member that you approach with the gentle suggestion to talk about what they’re experiencing is willing to have a conversation. In this case, it is usually for the best that you become an attentive listener, and limit interjections or offerings of advice. Despite your best intentions, you can not fix a bereaved person’s loss, and pithy platitudes are uneffective. Let your friend or family member talk, verbally process, cry, yell, whatever they need to do, and just be there to listen, holding their hand if they’re comfortable with it. It’s possible that they just need to get all of the bottled up thoughts out, and they’ll appreciate you listening, even if you can’t really do anything about their current pain but let them know you care.
While you yourself may not be in as much pain or as affected by grief as your bereaved loved one, it’s vitally important that you never minimize their pain. You should consider removing phrases like “it’s not all bad” or “it could be worse, you know” They also don’t want their pain to become a competition for your own pain. For example, don’t make comparisons to pain you’ve experienced in a way that makes their pain seem not as potent. You can relate, and even empathize, but never minimize. If anything, agree and acknowledge that sometimes, life is painful, and that it’s okay to have bad days. Pain is part of the process. Feeling it is necessary for this journey.
Be a Bridge
In some circumstances, you may not be able to relate very well to the pain that your loved one is experiencing, especially if the loss was sudden or that of a child. In this case, you can offer to be their connection to someone you may know that does relate to their situation. While you may be willing to help them through their bereavement, what they may need more is to talk to others who have experienced or are experiencing the same kind of loss. We can definitely help you with these resources. Please contact us for more suggestions.
Follow Through With Thoughtfulness
Hollow words and empty promises will do nothing to help your loved one through their bereavement. Be specific about things that you can help them with, whether it’s preparing meals, taking care of kids, helping around the house, cutting the lawn, grocery shopping, or whatever it may be. If you tell them you will be praying for them...PRAY RIGHT THEN AND THERE WITH THEM or for them. Avoid saying “whatever you need,” because while that may be true, it’s a blanket statement that seems to have lost its meaning in our social structure. Once you’ve made it clear that you’re going to do something to help the person, actually do it. Even if you’re not the world’s greatest cook, putting the effort into providing something tangible, like preparing dinner, will mean the world to someone whose heart is broken.
Weathering the Storm Together
We hope these simple suggestions were helpful to you, especially if you’re currently trying to be present for a loved one who is grieving. If there is anything we didn’t mention, it is okay to ask the person what they need most from you. They may or may not have an answer, but they’ll see and appreciate your effort. Checking in often with a short text message is always beneficial.
Weathered Raindrop would like to invite you to view our selection of sympathy and bereavement wind chimes, sun catchers, and other memorial keepsakes available. We think our products are the perfect gift you can give to someone who is hurting. Personalize any item with a loving message, and help the people you care about the most weather the storm. Please contact us with any questions you have regarding our inventory, and we’ll be happy to answer them!