I’ve been the griever at the family gathering.
My family and friends did their best, I’m not razzing them… but I want to give you 5 tips on what to do or what to expect if there’s a griever amongst your gathering.
Because I’ve been there.
As a young widow.
And because people don’t know what to do - or what to say - or how to help.
And this will help.
1. Don’t be afraid
First of all, don’t be afraid to talk about the person who’s not here; not just how much you miss them, but good funny stories, too. It’s good to laugh and remind the griever of fond, loving memories (don’t say those words outloud though or you might get some mashed potatoes slopped on your face).
Also, just as I’m telling you don’t be afraid to talk about their person - I will also say this: don’t be a counselor, be a listening heart with no mouth.
If the griever is sharing how they feel, don’t tell them not to feel a certain way. It’s how they feel and they need to share, they need to get it out. It’s normal and natural for a griever to walk to talk and sometimes grief isn’t comfortable or logical. It’s not supposed to be. Just let them talk and remind them how much they’re loved. Don’t try to fix them.
2. Don’t ask the Griever
Don’t ask the griever generically “how are you doing?”
How do you think they’re doing?!?
Their person is dead or divorced or something!!! Instead, ask them “how are you doing right now in this moment?” or don’t ask at all and just hug them and tell them you love them and you’re glad to see them.
And remember, you’re not there to fix how they feel or what they’re thinking. You are there to love and support them. Let them say or think all the things, no matter how fucked up it might seem. Be that listening heart with no mouth.
3. Don’t Interrupt Them
If the griever starts to share their heart and thoughts, don’t touch them… doing so interrupts their thoughts and processing.
If they’re crying, go and sit next to them, but don’t touch them or hand them a tissue, even. Again, doing so breaks the cycle of processing their emotions. Instead, lean and listen intently, wait for them to finish their moment, then ask if you can hug them. And then do.
There are other ways to show you care and console them other than touching them. You want them to feel and process the emotion as it comes. Touching them interrupts that process.
I’m not saying NOT to hug, I’m just saying to let them finish their thoughts and feelings when they do open up to share.
4. When you Hug
When you do hug a griever, don’t pat them on the back.
When you pat a griever who is sad on the back, you are silently telling them that they are making you feel uncomfortable and please stop crying… and I know that’s not your intention.
Instead, give a good solid hug with both of your arms and hold your person. You will naturally know when it’s time to release them.
And you can literally feel the energy of love and support flow between the two of you.
5. Know This
Know that an active griever feels incredibly lonely even amongst a crowd of people they know and love.
Be considerate of that. A part of them are missing.
They might be more quiet than usual. You might see a silent tear fall down their cheek. Or they may escape to a back bedroom to have a moment of silence by themselves.
Let all of that happen.
But if you feel called to check in on them, let them know you love them and tell them just that. “Hey, ____, I love you so much and I just want to check in on you in this moment. Is there anything I can do for you?” Or if you feel like just holding their hand would help, do it. Are they laying on the bed in a back bedroom to escape the larger family? Then spoon up behind them.
Don’t wait for someone else. If something’s on your heart, do it. Don’t hesitate. Just remember not to interrupt their train of thoughts when their expressing.
BONUS TIP: Don’t make them bring anything. Getting there alone will be enough of a chore.
I hope this helps you feel more confident and prepared to be helpufl and useful to to your grieving family member or friend.
Grief is hard and painful. It’s supposed to be.
But grief is also something that we don’t know what to do with - the world has no problem talking about death or sad things, but grief is the shit that we deal with after loss. And as a civilized and intelligent society, it’s suprising that it’s not something we are taught or prepared to deal with.