Research shows 95,000 accidental deaths occur per year, affecting tens of thousands of people in United States. Homicide and accident fatalities are the leading causes of deaths. One fatality occurred last week when a middle age man’s car slid on ice into oncoming traffic. His car was hit head-on, leaving a grief-stricken wife with six young children. Then I heard word of another tragedy occurrence. In the past eleven days our community was shocked by the sudden loss of four High School youths who committed suicide. The risk of youth suicide is rising in America. It is the third-leading cause of death from ages 15 to 24. Death is a common perplexity in life. It’s intense, sorrowful and painfully complex. What are some guidelines in helping those who grieve? Here are fifteen ways we can care for those who suffer loss.
- Let them acknowledge the loss of their love one. Be gentle to allow them to talk about the things they need to talk about – this is validating. Be an active listener while being patient, without interruptions.
- It is common for the one grieving to isolate, alienate or detach from the world. This is a perfect opportunity to be part of a support system. Family and friends are vital support in helping those who grieve to let them know they are not alone. Healing comes quicker if they have supportive people around them. Men and woman grieve differently. Be attentive to their needs as they sift through feelings and problems they are going through.
- Holidays and special dates, birthdays, and anniversaries are difficult times. The advancing date can be as daunting as the actual occasion. This is an opportune time to send a card of encouragement, call them and let them know you are thinking of them, or send an e-mail of comfort. Keep in touch! Do not expect them to call you when they need someone to talk to.
- Offer practical assistance by letting them know you will be there to help, if needed. Some examples are: Could I bring a meal for you today? Or, can I pick up your children from school today? Would you like me to walk your dog? Sometimes the person is so overwhelmed by grief they don’t know what they need, so be specific.
- Become a gracious, caring friend who can be with them “in the moment”. Silence is welcome, as they may need your presence more than words. Sometimes few words are best.
- Triggers often are reminders of the painful reality that their love one is no longer with them and usually tears follow. Grieving can be so perplexing when an uncontrollable burst of tears comes out of nowhere. Reassure them this is normal. Sometimes a gentle touch or a kind word can reassure them of your love.
- At times, talking about death can feel awkward and we just don’t know what to say. If we run from one who is grieving, ignore or avoid them, it is hurtful. It sends mixed messages of disloyalty…when they really need affirmation and love.
- Do not judge or criticize at any time. Be especially sensitive to feelings in cases of unexpected, sudden deaths.
- Come with a heart to serve and minister to them. If you have had a similar loss, resist sharing your own story which shifts the focus off them.
- Guilt and anger are stages of bereavement and very overwhelming emotions. Allow them to share their feelings. As they work their way through the grief period, they also may talk a lot about “why” this happened. Once again, they need a patient listener. Be available!
- Refrain from saying, “I understand how you feel”. Who can determine how another person feels or thinks? It is impossible to know how another person feels. We don’t know!
- All periods of bereavement are uncomfortable, especially when set in social situations. Sometimes getting together one-on-one is more comfortable than group settings.
- Be careful not to offer platitudes such as, “Everything works out for good”. For the grieving, this is painful, because all they are thinking of is how much they miss their loved one. This doesn’t help. Platitudes are often meaningless, empty expression to the one in bereavement.
- Gently remind them grieving will fade, although their loved one will always be remembered.
- Pray for, and with your love one. Your concerns through prayer will give the support they so desperately need.
For those grieving – entering in the bereavement stage is complicated. It is important to have family and friends that can walk along side of them as they grieve. During this period, you are given opportunities to comfort, love, and serve. A soft shoulder to cry on and a compassionate heart are sincere gestures of care. This is a beautiful way of sharing your love and concern for those around you who are hurting.
Lord, thank You for Your supporting grace that sustains me. Help me to reach out to those who are in pain, with the same kind of love and compassion you give me when I hurt. Amen.