Updated: Nov 1, 2018
Words escape us and our emotions become too overwhelming when we see a hurt that we cannot fix. A friend, family member or coworker who has suffered the loss of a loved one can leave us unsure of how to console them. We compiled a list of five gifts that will allow them to heal and give you the peace of mind that you are helping them in this journey.
Your friend, family member or coworker is left with a deep emptiness caused by an irreversible loss.
Do you have time to sit with them?
Personally I find the narrative of Job from the Bible quite inspiring. After losing his children and wife, Job’s three friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar heard about the tragedy Job encountered. Together they went to console and to comfort Job.
Job 2:11-13 New International Version (NIV)
11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.
For one week straight Job’s friends gave him their uninterrupted time.
Are you willing to give your time?
Support has many faces and people have many different ways to show that.
First and foremost decide what effect your friend, family member or coworker’s loss have on you. Does the loss provoke sadness over losses you have experienced and perhaps not dealt with? If that is the case you may want to consider a financial contribution, the keys to your cottage, a gift card for something practical like house cleaning services, a restaurant or their hobby.
If you find yourself in a good place to personally support the friend, family member or coworker then head on over. For weeks the griever’s energy centers around the lost one. Rather than avoiding the topic, their desperate longing can be eased when you suggest helping the griever to do an activity that the deceased and griever liked to do together (cook a favourite meal, watch a favourite movie or go to their favourite place). This might seem unorthodox, however by sharing experiences as such the griever will eventually realize that special moments can also involve trustworthy people from the present.
Make intuition your guardian and do not act controlling or oversensitive.
When supporting a friend, family member or coworker also be aware of your own existence. We are after all just people on a planet, floating in a galaxy surrounded by star systems and planets. In a time like this it is helpful to imagine yourself giving up gravity and becoming detached from the outcome.
Offering space to be there or not be there whenever the griever feels angry, disillusioned, desperate, relieved and/or at peace. It is sometimes easier to be there when the griever has negative emotions, because we can relate or it is expected. Understandably, we would like to be a part of the positive experiences too, especially if we were there for them when they were challenged by the negative emotions. It is important to remember that space is a gift for to the griever, it is their journey, not yours, ie. do not take it personally. When they are feeling positive, they might also need to feel that in solitude.
Moods and actions change rapidly during this time and what was of consequence yesterday might not be so today.
Following the gift of support, if you are in a good place and a stable energy to be there in their time of grief, allow yourself the flexibility to renew. Job had three friends who sat with him. Collect brochures or online links of support groups and contact information of other friends or co-workers who are in a good position to be a back-up. If you bring depleted, low or negative energy when supporting your friend, it is not conducive to a healing environment for either of you.
Just as sudden as life changed for the person who grieves, your life can change quickly too. Not being the sole person to rely on will bring a healthy balance. Do a quick energy check before engaging with the griever. Is your energy level high enough to truly be of help?
When I visit someone in distress I never go without a journal, Journaling Through Loss and Grief. In fact I always have my personal journal and an extra copy wherever I go. I am blessed to come across so many who have stories about their own loss, and how they themselves are struggling with some aspects of overcoming their grief, or know someone close who are trying to cope with loss.
The gift to your friend, family or coworker can however turn out different from what you expect. The thing is that during the next visit you may find the journal still in the original wrapping.
Journaling Through suggests that you to ask the griever permission to open the journal and read a quote. Gently and with consideration, encourage the griever to listen as you read a section of the journal. Guided journaling brings hope and understanding to all the parties dealing with the loss. Leave it up to the griever to write in the journal, or ask them if they wish for you to sit with them while they write. The power of healing will come from the connection, not the words. They can share or chose not to.
As a true friend, you will empower them to deal with the loss in a healthy, holistic way.