Grief and loss do not have an expiration date. Oftentimes, we stop checking in on people after the funeral. The grief and loss continue over time and become more intense, which means people want you to be present. The misconception is that people should move on, but who determines that? People move at their own pace and we must be conscious of the stages of grief and loss which move in waves. Consider what it is like for THEM after a loss. Don’t put your expectations on them and expect them to manage their feelings the same way you do. Instead, treat them based on their experience and be supportive.
Consider someone who lost their parents. They may have to assist with funeral arrangements. They may have to deal with any personal affairs or assistance following the funeral, which may include; determining what to do with their loved ones' items, creditors, banking, vehicle, finances, will, court, etc., These are things we often don't take into consideration. Below are some ways you can continue to be supportive.
Another time people may need you to pull up on them is during the holidays and anniversaries of their lost ones. This may include all the holidays, Valentines Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays, their birthday, etc., These days increase the intensity of the loss and it may impact that person.
Here’s how you can help;
- Think before you speak
- Call them
- Listen. Listen, you can't fix this
- Tell them you're there without judgment
- Reassure them their not a burden
- Ask them how they're doing and ask about their feelings ( happy, sad, angry, anxious, etc)
- Help them create new traditions
- Respect their space
- Take them out
- Offer to tag along
- Offer to help with sorting items
- Make them laugh
- Continue to be a good friend
- Encourage therapy whether you believe in it or not
-Shareela Allen, LCSW