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Supporting our loved ones in grief

By Beverly Medlyn
Communications director

Many of us have friends and family members who are grieving – either in anticipation of a death or because a loved one has died recently.

It’s hard to know what to say and do. A natural reaction is to pull away, ostensibly to “give them space,” but more honestly, because we feel uncomfortable with the situation even though we want to help.

But as with many things, eighty percent of life is showing up, as Woody Allen said.

Your presence – warm, kind, quiet and caring – is the best thing you can offer grieving friends and family members. Acknowledge the loss and offer an empathetic, listening ear whenever the person wants to talk. Use the name of the person who died. Refrain from giving advice or relating your personal experience with grief and loss.

Just be there.

As time passes, keep in touch. Call and invite your friend to lunch or coffee. Do what you did before – whether that’s going for walks, watching sports or shopping. Find a way to bring nature into the person’s life to help instill a sense of calm and peace.

At especially sensitive times, such as holidays, weddings or funerals, be aware of the person’s vulnerability to sadness. It may be appropriate to offer alternatives to traditional ways of celebrating. Instead of a family Thanksgiving dinner at home, your friend or relative may prefer to go on a picnic.

Look for ways to help out. If the person who died used to handle all the home repairs and you notice something needs fixing, volunteer to do it yourself or make other arrangements. If the mourner isn’t much of a cook, invite him over for dinner or go out together.

Many people process grief and loss on their own with support from friends and family.

But for those who need more, Hospice of the Valley offers grief support groups that are open to anyone in the community, regardless of whether the person who died was served by the agency.

New Song Center for Grieving Children helps children, teens and families whose loved one has died. Children are supported through developmentally appropriate activities including art, play and journaling. Adults attend their own support groups, where they learn how to help children and teens grieve in a healthy manner while learning how to cope with loss themselves.

Together we can work it through.