Grieving – How You Can Help

I get the sense that people do not know how to help or support someone who is grieving.  Most people are not sure what to say, what to offer or if it is ok to call.  They feel like if we need something, we will ask, we will call.  This is not true for me.  Working through the grief of losing a child is a long hard battle. 

We are a society that supports and preaches “emotional numbing,” in many ways.  Grief is good.  Grief is healthy.  Grief is a relief and release from overwhelming emotions deep inside, including:  guilt, anger, anxiety, rage, sense of loss, feeling cheated, helplessness, hopelessness, loneliness, fear, restlessness, insomnia and indescribable inner pain.

Everyone grieves in their own way.  What I have found I need most from my closest friends is:

  1. Call me:  don’t wait for me to call you.  I feel like I am a burden to my friends and will not reach out when I most need you.  I feel like I am a “downer” and don’t want to pull others down.  I want to hear from you.  Don’t ever feel like you are invading my space.  If you get a sense to call me, you are probably right! Trust your instincts. I need and want you to call.  If I can’t pick up the phone, I won’t. Your call means the world to me, just to know you are there.  Continue to call me in the weeks, months and years to come.
  2. Ask me:  I need to tell my story over and over again.  The story changes because in healthy grieving, there is movement.  It is a process, a journey.  A long journey.   Grief doesn’t all of a sudden end, it has many layers, each day you will find me dealing with another piece, maybe a piece I went through before.    Ask me, “What is going on with you today?”  Ask me, “What is the most difficult thing you are dealing with right now?” 
  3. Listen:  Advice can sometimes be harmful and I have found that sometimes I don’t listen well.  I am too deep in my own thoughts and pain.  In addition, I am not looking for you to solve this problem.  I just want you to listen and be there, so I can process.  An arm around my shoulder, a hug, a shoulder to cry on, to know that I am not alone.  Through listening, you will lighten my burden and sadness and relieve the stress.  Sometimes it is impossible to listen to a lot of words when my mind is confused or deep in thought or pain.  Silence allows me to sort out my thoughts.
  4. Physical Support:  I need you to remind me to eat healthy food, drink lots of water and take my vitamins to be able to keep my body strong through this stressful ordeal.  Sometimes, I simply forget.  Offer to do errands or drive.  There have been times recently, I am so deep in thought and grief, that I lose consciousness of what I am doing and all of a sudden, realize I just went through a stop sign while driving!  I am not sure what to expect, or how long this will last.  Help me tell you what I need.  There may be days when I can’t function and I will need your help.
  5. Share memories:  I want to talk about Matthew.  I want to hear all the stories you can remember about Matt, good and bad!  I want to hear funny stories, moments Matt touched you in some way.  Pictures!  Send me every picture you have of Matt, I don’t care if it is out of focus.  Send me anecdotes about a moment you had with Matthew.  Send me a drawing he did, a note he sent you, a picture of a tattoo he did.  I love the feelings that surface, it is very healing and nurturing.  I am afraid I will forget something about Matthew and I never want to forget anything. 
  6. Get me out of the house:  I need to get out and do things that are fun and take my mind off of my grief.  When I am alone in my home for long periods of time, I have found I will walk in circles, get lost in thought or emotion, sit in Matthew’s room on the floor and cry and ask why.  While some of that processing is good, I have found it can throw me into a downward spiral.  Stop by, you don’t have to call.  Visitors are a welcome relief.  If I can’t talk, I will tell you and ask you to come back, please come back. 
  7. Keep me connected spiritually:  Sometimes in the darkness of grief, I am looking for someone, something to blame for this loss.  Staying connected spiritually keeps me connected to God, God’s light, God’s will and His mission for each and every one of us.  Invite me to go to services with you, programs that are uplifting, motivating and inspirational.  If I say no, keep asking.  Staying connected spiritually and to the light will help me process and understand this tragedy in a healthy manner. 

The goal of grief is to acknowledge that a change has occurred.  I feel like I am interacting with the world as a different person, looking through a different pair of eyes.  Everything looks different, feels different and I respond differently to everyday interactions.  There are moments where I know Matthew has died, but my heart won’t believe it.  The journey of grief is helping the heart to know what the head knows.  You can help.

Comments

  1. Dear Marguerite, we are there for you! Thank you for making it easier for those who love you to be better able to support you. This column is something every person who grieves should send to their friends. And it’s something every friend should see in order to help those who grieve. Thank you for sharing your personal experience of losing Matt. –Laura B.

  2. Awesome post Marguerite. You summarized the needs so beautifully! I hope it’s ok that I shared it on my Face Book page to help my friends and family know how they can help.

  3. Toni Mullett says:

    I just wanted to tell you how touched I was by reading your tribute to Matt and your writing about grief and how people can help those who are grieving. You have a Beautiful Voice. Thank you so much for reaching out in a proactive way to move forward in your life and for your family….because of your writing, I feel like I know Matt and he sure is an awesome dude……Praying for you and yours. Sincerely, Toni Mullett, Greenwood, Delaware

  4. A wise person once told me “grief is the price we pay when someone or something we love dies.” It is part of the human condition. Thank you God that I am human! I love my son Justin, I love my mother and father. Those “empty seats” are only temporary, I will miss them but LOVE NEVER DIES!

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