Weeding in the Garden of Grief:  Supporting a Grieving Person

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Weeds and grief such untidy parts of life.  Just when we think we’ve got the yard back in order a weed pops us, and sometimes even more ferocious than the first shoot up.

The advantage of a weed though, is that we recognize what it is, and sometimes people will come along and help us in the weed patch.  They can see the work to be done, and so can we.

What about grief?  Recognizing our own grief, or that of another, is sometimes tricky.   We expect it to be gone in a short order not allowing it to fully grow and be gently weeded where the dirt turnovers with new growth.  It surprises us when we see the depth of its root and the length of its vine.

Grief and weeds both reminders of the natural flow of life; the comings and goings, the summer flowers, the winter freeze.  Each gives us a deeper perspective we would not otherwise have with only garden flowers and happy times.

Perhaps the lesson is in the tending to of them.  Weeds don’t become more prevalent because we acknowledge them.  In fact, they become more prevalent when we don’t acknowledge them.  They grow because we aren’t tending to them.  Grief isn’t much different. Like a weed, when pushed back into the dark corner of our heart, it naturally starts seeking light, air, and space.  Without such, it can’t grow into something new.

Tending to the garden isn’t easy.  It’s messy.  It tracks dirt back into our house.  About half way through we are so ready to give up.  We’re tired and can barely see our progress.  Wikipedia describes a weed as “a plant in the wrong place.”   Let’s not put our grief in the wrong place.  Let’s bring it out into the sunlight where we and others can see it and help us make a new garden path.

SUPPORTING A GRIEVING PERSON TIP 2:  OFFER PRACTICAL ASSISTANCE

It is difficult for many grieving people to ask for help. They might feel guilty about receiving so much attention, fear being a burden to others, or simply be too depressed to reach out. A grieving person may not have the energy or motivation to call you when they need something, so instead of saying, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” make it easier for them by making specific suggestions. You could say, “I’m going to the market this afternoon. What can I bring you from there?” or “I’ve made beef stew for dinner. When can I come by and bring you some?”

If you’re able, try to be consistent in your offers of assistance. The grieving person will know that you’ll be there for as long as it takes and can look forward to your attentiveness without having to make the additional effort of asking again and again.

Practical ways to help a grieving person

You can offer to:

  • Shop for groceries or run errands
  • Drop off a casserole or other type of food
  • Help with funeral arrangements
  • Stay in your loved one’s home to take phone calls and receive guests
  • Help with insurance forms or bills
  • Take care of housework, such as cleaning or laundry
  • Watch their children or pick them up from school
  • Drive your loved one wherever he or she needs to go
  • Look after your loved one’s pets
  • Go with them to a support group meeting
  • Accompany them on a walk
  • Take them to lunch or a movie
  • Share an enjoyable activity (sport, game, puzzle, art project)

The above tips come from Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., 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

 Walk in the garden with them. 

 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/

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