When tragedy affects someone we care for or just merely know in passing, it is challenging to find the words to offer support. Grief is personal and complex. Being supportive requires sensitivity on your behalf and a willingness to provide open ears and a kind heart.
HelpGuide.org offers a few high level tips to support someone in grief.
In a generalized sense, most of us can nod our head in agreement to most of these tips. However, when the grief is yours, certain questions, behavior and attitudes can be death by a thousand cuts. Whether well-meaning or not, the thickness of our skin becomes paper-thin with grief.
When my brother died unexpectedly nearly five years ago, I recall different people (some very close to me) making suggestions about how I should mourn. Everyone meant well, but I did find the comments a bit irritating. In the immediate window following his death, we had to develop plans, work with teams in different states. Everything was happening quickly. In his short life, he made a difference for many and was loved by people around the world. This window required my full attention and engagement.
During these early days I was told that I “should cry” or “take some time to feel the loss.” My response to each was, “I love my brother and will mourn his absence for the rest of my life. At this time, we need to tie-up loose ends.”
And, we did tie-up the loose ends. Plans were executed. Travel happened. Ceremonies happened. Tears happened. Stillness happened. Reflection happened.
Nearly five years later, I bring him up nearly daily. In spite of being two years younger, he carried himself as the elder in adulthood. I share as many of our childhood stories with his beautiful daughter, who is so much like him. His beloved dog was always overjoyed when I arrived to walk and baby him until his own death last summer. A few times a year, I visit my brother’s grave site and we close the the session with a balloon release after a word of prayer. We keep his memory alive consciously. Through us, he continues to live.
What’s Your Grief is a unique website that offers many topics and materials related to the grieving process. I truly valued how the site’s authors provide no fewer than 30 options to commemorate the loss of a loved one, including ways that support circles can also share in the reflection. It's certainly worth a review.