5 Ways to Help a Loved One in Grief

5 Ways to Help a Loved One in Grief

Last Family Photo

This is our last family photo. And it wasn’t even an actual photo, it is a screenshot from a video someone took during Blake’s 2nd birthday party. I saw my Dad one other time before this, but we didn’t capture the moment of my Dad baiting a fishing pole for Blake for the first time, the great family dinner we had, or our last golf cart ride. If I would have known that would be the last time I would see him, I would have captured a million pictures for posterity.

During this period in my life, countless people have told me, “If there’s something I can do, please let me know.” I truly think these family and friends wanted to do something but simply didn’t know what to do or what to say. Death, especially suicide, is an uncomfortable topic. Loved ones don’t want to say the wrong thing and evoke even more sadness. Yet sometimes even the smallest gestures can have the biggest impact.

“Even the smallest gestures can have the biggest impact.”

Here are 5 examples of what loved ones did or said that helped me during my grief.

1. Share a Personal Story: One morning, someone I worked with but wasn’t super close with came up to me while I was making a cup of coffee. He said to me, “I lost my dad when I was in college. One of my professors told me that research shows that you start feeling a little better after 6 months. She was right but I still miss my dad every day. Hang in there, it gets more manageable.” I don’t think he realized how meaningful that small conversation was, but I still think about that chat. During those first few months, those words provided hope that while my life would be changed forever, the waves of grief would get smaller over time. However, I caution that you should NOT dominate the conversation and make the other person’a grief all about you.

2. Provide a Practical Gift: Within days after my Dad died, a high school friend that I have seen in years asked for my address and sent me paper products: tissues, toilet paper, paper plates, and napkins. This was such a practical gift that was truly so helpful as at that time I was crying constantly and didn’t feel like washing dishes.

3. Send a Card: Many people sent sympathy cards immediately after my Dad’s passing. That was so meaningful. I have all the cards in a box, and I still look through them from time to time. I received the most meaningful card months afterward. I came to work one day and there was a card sitting on my desk. I opened it and it said something like, “I don’t know what you’re going through, but I am thinking of you and I am here for you.” That was such a powerful message to let me know that even though I felt like it, I wasn’t alone.

4. Carve Out Some Time for Something Fun: Around the holidays, one friend took me to a tea house for brunch and afterwards we went to see the movie “Wonder.” It was a great girls’ day that simply allowed me to remember how much I still had in my life.

5. Do Something, Just Because: Close to the one-year mark of my dad’s death, my best friend sprang into my cubicle and cheerfully extended a Starbuck’s Pink Drink. “I got one on my break, and I thought you would like this as well!” she exclaimed. She didn’t ask me what I wanted, or if I liked that drink, she just did it and that random act of kindness touched my heart so much. Even if I didn’t like the drink (which I did! Yum!) that $5 purchase really turned my day around.

These are just some of the things my loved ones did or said to help me through the darkest time in my life. I hope these examples are helpful to you.

What things helped you through your grief?