The Most Common Mistake Grief Support People MakeJun 14, 2023
Grievers, let me know if this sounds familiar...
Them: “Let us know if you need anything.”
Me (in my head): “I can’t even begin to wrap my head around how I’ll get through this. I can’t think of what I need. I am surviving moment-to-moment, just trying to keep myself and my child alive. I feel like my grief is too much for everyone. I won’t have the energy to actually reach out and ask for anything. I am reeling.”
Them: I haven’t heard from her and don’t want to be annoying. I’m sure someone else is helping her.
If you've been through a profound loss, my guess is that you are nodding your head along right now.
Because here is the truth:
WE DON’T KNOW HOW TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION.
So pre-grievers, grief support people, family, and friends - this one's for you...
In the aftermath of a traumatic loss, the person at the epicentre is in complete shock. Asking them what they need is pointless. Telling them vaguely to “reach out if you need anything” is even more futile.
I promise you, 9 times out of 10, you will never hear from them.
I just didn’t know what I needed. Well - actually, what I needed was my f***ing husband back. Each moment was a struggle. I couldn’t think straight, couldn’t initiate asking for anything.
Vague offers of “Just ask if you need anything” were confusing. Did the person mean that they could come over in the middle of the night when I was beside myself with sorrow and panic? Did they want to take care of my daughter so I could sob for hours on end? Did they want to help me with the PILES of death admin that nobody thinks about after a loss?
I didn’t have the energy or clarity to sift through any of this and just felt overwhelmed.
Often after a loss, everybody thinks someone else is helping out. People fear being “annoying” or take it personally if they reach out once and don’t hear back. 🤦🏻♀️
Here is my advice if you want to truly support a griever:
- Offer something SPECIFIC, tangible, and clear - i.e. I want to drop off groceries every Monday for you - does that sound good? I’ll reach out on Sundays to go over a list together
- Choose something you can continue to do for the long-term, commit and don’t disappear
- Reach out regularly to check-in + do not take it personally if you don’t hear back, don’t assume you’re being annoying
- Tell the griever how much you love them often, even if you are confused by the way they are acting - after a profound loss we often feel like we become sh*t versions of ourselves
- If the griever has kids, offer regular childcare support + build a real, loving relationship with their kids
Grievers, what would you add to this list? Share this with someone who would benefit.
A grief-literate society is a healthy society.
For my free resource, "But What Do I Say? Simple Tips to Support Grievers", click here.