What to Expect
Grief & Guidance
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People can be very supportive in the initial days after a death. There are lots of things for them to do: help to make funeral arrangements; notify other friends and family of the death; and take care of day-to-day chores. It's a matter of being friends: taking on the necessary tasks so survivors have the time and energy to actively mourn their loss.
Unfortunately, once the funeral is over, things can change dramatically. This support system can dissolve quickly as people return to their normal routines. The phone stops ringing and the bereaved may find their days and nights to be long and lonely.
It's about not walking away. Granted, you may part company after the funeral but a true ally doesn't stay away long; a better-than-good ally keeps checking in with the bereaved.
Being a friend in deed during this time can feel very difficult. "Grief is uncomfortable." "It is foreign. It is an ill-fitting garment that pinches you in all the wrong places. And because of this, it's hard to be around a person who is grieving." In order to be a remarkable ally to a dear friend or family member who is now wearing this "ill-fitting garment," you must get out of your comfort zone and be willing to spend time with them. Yes, it can be difficult but when you go into this situation with a focus on helping them to grieve with purpose, it becomes easier.
When you choose to become an ally to someone in mourning, it becomes your responsibility to support them in achieving those things within their time frame – not yours.
In no way should you impose a limit on the amount of time their bereavement takes; the only limitations you can set have to do with any negative behaviors you witness. If you think their grief has overwhelmed them and set them upon a self-destructive course, it may be time to suggest they see a certified grief counselor or therapist.
Other meaningful things you can do to help them successfully adapt to their loss include:
Popular writer Barbara Kingsolver penned these wise words about friendship: “The friend who holds your hand and says the wrong thing is made of dearer stuff than the one who stays away.” She's so right – never stay away because you're frightened of saying something inappropriate. The American Cancer Society said it best, in "Coping with the Loss of a Loved One": "Be there. Even if you don't know what to say, just having someone near can be very comforting."
Other simple tips include these:
Author Sarah Dessen captured the nature of good listening in this passage from her book, Just Listen: “This is the problem with dealing with someone who is actually a good listener. They don’t jump in on your sentences, saving you from actually finishing them, or talk over you; allowing what you do manage to get out to be lost or altered in transit. Instead, they wait, so you have to keep going.”
Grieving doesn't always end with the funeral: subscribe to our free daily grief support email program, designed to help you a little bit every day, by filling out the form below.