As we age, there’s one inevitable reality we all face: we have to contend with the loss of friends and loved ones. This frequently means walking the journey of grief alongside someone who has just lost a spouse, sibling, parent or friend. Even for pastors and others trained in how to deal with grief, helping someone cope with a major emotional loss is unsettling, because we often don’t know the best, most appropriate way to respond.
Dealing with Grief Doesn’t Mean Knowing “the Right Thing to Say”
Because this experience is so common, we wanted to share this helpful article recently published on the website Considerable.com, titled Six Thoughtful Things to Do when Someone Passes Away. “When trying to provide help or comfort to someone who has recently lost a loved one,” the piece begins, “we’re likely to agonize over the right thing to say.” That sense of being tongue-tied in the face of grief is common to us all – in fact, not knowing what to say can cause us to avoid the grief-stricken person entirely, which is the most insensitive thing we can do. “Knowing the best way to lend a hand can be difficult, but it shouldn’t stop you from trying,” especially when we really want to help. The writers at Considerable consulted experts on grief and trauma recovery and came up with these six thoughtful actions that can help a friend or loved one deal with loss. This might be a helpful list to keep on hand.
- Be present and be persistent. This point from Considerable definitely reminded us of our own experiences with grief. “Many folks experiencing a loss receive an abundance of attention and help in the direct aftermath of a death,” said the article, “only to encounter a substantial drop-off in communication as the weeks pass by. That follow-up period is an important time to remain available to the bereaved.” Experts consulted for the article emphasized the need to keep offering specific help on a regular basis and not to get discouraged if your offers to help are turned down. “Don’t stop offering and inviting if they decline. Keep pursuing them,” one grief counselor said. Keep in touch week after week as best you can, and remember to just be “your authentic self.”
- Help around the house. “There’s no shortage of chores and small tasks that can be of great assistance,” says the Considerable “You can grocery shop; help with the laundry; clean closets, cellars, and attics; care for pets; or do yard work.” If your friend is planning on sending thank-you notes to people who attended the funeral service, you might offer to purchase and stamp the cards. If you have organizational skills, you can help the mourner organize all the endless details that have to be attended to when someone passes away.
Dealing with Grief Can Involve a Change of Scenery or a Thoughtful Memorial
- Get them out of the house. “Being physically active and connecting with nature can be a great way to help ease feelings of isolation and sadness,” the article recommends. Take a walk or do some other activity like tennis, bowling, or swimming that you know they enjoy. Get them out to a coffee shop or museum. But at the same time encourage them to be honest with you. “Let them know they don’t have to hide how they’re feeling,” one expert told Considerable, “and that you’re open to staying out or going home at their leisure.”
- Memorialize the deceased. Some people, to keep from causing pain, avoid talking about the person who has recently died, but this is often the wrong approach. “Helping to commemorate the deceased, whether individually or collaborative with others, is a thoughtful gesture that can help evoke positive memories for the mourner,” says the article. You may want to buy or create a piece of art, a poem, or a framed photograph, or to make a charitable donation in the name of the deceased. These are tangible ways of showing how much you care.
- Avoid bringing food and flowers. While bringing food and flowers can be a thoughtful gesture, these traditional gifts may not be the best choice. As the panel of grief experts told Considerable, flowers often trigger allergies – and once the flowers have died the mourner has to deal with them at a time when he or she typically doesn’t feel like dealing with anything. When it comes to food, mourners often end up with a freezer full of casseroles. Instead, consider “paying for a meal service that can be used when the mourner really needs it,” the article advises. “And instead of flowers, try a gift card or a certificate for a massage.”
- Grief experts say this can be the greatest gift of all: the gift of your presence. “Grievers may need to talk and tell the story over and over to help them heal. If you can simply be present and listen and avoid being prescriptive, this is wonderful,” the article states. Be present, be patient, and don’t think you have to have the “right words.” Let the mourner talk freely and don’t try to fix their pain. Don’t interrupt and don’t judge. The gift of listening can be a huge help toward emotional healing.
Finally, says Considerable, remember the unique personality and individual needs of your grieving friend. “No two people grieve the same way or on the same timeline, so be flexible with both your time and your expectations.” Sounds like good advice.
Dealing With Retirement Means Planning Ahead
We can all do something to alleviate the pain of grief, with some effort, compassion and intentionality. We can start with the people we know in our own neighborhoods, in our circle of acquaintances, or in our churches, synagogues or mosques. If all of us made it a point to reach out to those experiencing loss and helped them feel loved and listened to, it would surely speed their emotional healing. But what about your own future? Are you in danger of finding yourself unprepared as you grow older? Here at AgingOptions we approach retirement planning in a way that’s truly comprehensive, which means we help you plan for things others often overlook. For example, one way you as a senior can reduce the likelihood of living a lonely life is to plan well for your future housing options, so you’re not stuck living alone, unless that’s your choice. Another way to prepare for the future is to include your family as you create your retirement plans. When we guide you in planning for retirement, these facets – housing and family – are combined with financial, medical and legal strategies to create a personalized, individualized LifePlan, an AgingOptions exclusive.
We would love to invite you to find out more about LifePlanning and to discover how it will revolutionize your own blueprint for your future. Rajiv Nagaich will answer your questions and show you how all the elements of your plan can fit together seamlessly. We offer a series of free LifePlanning seminars at locations throughout the region, so for a complete calendar of presently scheduled seminars, visit our Live Events page and register for the date of your choice. It will change the way you think about retirement. We’ll see you soon at a LifePlanning Seminar!
(originally reported at www.considerable.com)