Walking through my own grief and accompanying others in theirs, the lyrics from The Prayer, “Watch us where we go; help us to be wise in times when we don’t know,” resonate deeply the truth of supporting one another in grief.
Watch us where we go encourages others to be with us but not lead. Rather staying beside and accompanying us where we go. Sometimes we just need someone to walk in the woods with us. Maybe clearing the path of debris or distraction, so we can make our own way through. That needed friend who holds a light to our heart’s journey within.
Help us to be wise in times when we don’t know. How aptly this describes grief. There are simply times when we don’t know which way to turn, what to think, how to feel, what to do. In this not knowing, we forget the wisdom we seek is actually within. Others can help by being that companion who can readily sit with our uncertainty, listening so profoundly we hear the wisdom of our own soul and find our way in the woods.
Let’s consider some tips for supporting a grieving person. The following tips from Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., are used with their full permission. A complete viewing of their work can be found at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief/helping-someone-who-is-grieving.htm
SUPPORTING A GRIEVING PERSON TIP 3: PROVIDE ONGOING SUPPORT
Your loved one will continue grieving long after the funeral is over and the cards and flowers have stopped. The length of the grieving process varies from person to person, but often lasts much longer than most people expect. Your bereaved friend or family member may need your support for months or even years.
Continue your support over the long haul. Stay in touch with the grieving person, periodically checking in, dropping by, or sending letters or cards. Once the funeral is over and the other mourners are gone, and the initial shock of the loss has worn off, your support is more valuable than ever.
Don’t make assumptions based on outward appearances. The bereaved person may look fine on the outside, while inside they’re suffering. Avoid saying things like “You are so strong” or “You look so well.” This puts pressure on the person to keep up appearances and to hide their true feelings.
The pain of bereavement may never fully heal. Be sensitive to the fact that life may never feel the same. You don’t “get over” the death of a loved one. The bereaved person may learn to accept the loss. The pain may lessen in intensity over time, but the sadness may never completely go away.
Offer extra support on special days. Certain times and days of the year will be particularly hard for your grieving friend or family member. Holidays, family milestones, birthdays, and anniversaries often reawaken grief. Be sensitive on these occasions. Let the bereaved person know that you’re there for whatever they need.
Help a friend by walking through the woods.
Editor’s Note: Friends of Hospice offers community grief support groups throughout the year in both Pullman and Colfax, including monthly drop-in groups and time-committed group sessions over the course of 8 weeks. Please check our website for current offerings: www.friendsofhopsice.net/grief-support-2/