Friday, January 1, 2016

What to Do for Someone Who is Grieving

In honor of the New Year’s tradition of making resolutions, here are my suggestions for what to do when someone you know is grieving:
  • Send a real, physical card, whether you’re close or a casual acquaintance. Doesn’t matter if it’s six months after the death. Email is okay, but I was shocked at how high the email:card ratio was (that is, almost everyone only emailed). Doesn’t matter if it’s a dorky card, the words don’t matter anyway, a card shows you went to some effort and that’s what counts.
  • Send flowers if you’re at all close. Send them a week after the funeral. Better yet, send a flowering plant that will communicate love for a long time.
  • The first conversation is going to be awkward. Trust me, the bereaved knows all about that so don’t let that stop you from calling.
  • Be sincere; a bereaved person is very open and vulnerable. I can’t tell you how many people left phone messages, all weepy saying “whatever I can do,” and then when I called them they didn’t really want to talk, or if I left a message they never called back. I could have done without those calls. If you think this is you, don’t call, send a card.
  • Let the bereaved prattle on. In particular, let them talk about the person who died. I’ve been shocked how people seem to think I don’t want to talk about Arthur, as if I don’t want to be reminded he’s gone. Trust me, I can’t forget that, and I get a lot of pleasure telling stories about him.
  • Don’t tell me how bad you feel for not calling him, etc. I’m not really interested in how you feel guilty for not spending more time with him.
  • Don’t assume the mourner needs or wants company. For some people solitude is very healing.
  • As time goes by, send another card, or two or three. It is so nice getting a card that just says ‘I’m thinking of you.” In other words, “I know you’re still hurting and you’re in my thoughts because I love you.”

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