Most of us have all been there, in a sudden instance or after a long illness; we've all had a friend lose someone to death. This death could have been their spouse, their child, their parent, their sibling, their aunt or uncle, or their cousin. This friend may be your bestie or this friend may be a family friend or a community friend. It doesn't matter where this person is at on your friends list, you feel so sad and compelled to help them or do something for them. But, then you freeze because you have no idea what to do for them. You may feel stuck in the moment thinking, "Oh, they have plenty of family or friends" or "This is so tragic, I don't want to feel those sad feelings" or "What do you even say to console them or make them feel okay". This list of excuses of not knowing what to say or do are endless and in the end, sometimes we just don't do anything.
What you do need to understand is that this friend, they need you. They need you even if it's a text saying "I don't know what to do or say, I'm so sad for you"; that's okay too. You are acknowledging their deep loss and grief, that's all a griever wants. We know you can't fix it, we know you can't make things better, and I know we definitely don't expect the good deeds of our friends either, although they are a huge blessing that we didn't know we needed.
Immediately after a death, it's crazy. There are people around, people helping, people doing, people guiding, and people just being there. It's great, but we are in such a hazy fog, that although we appreciate it so very much, we are just taking each hour as we can. We don't know that in 2 - 4 weeks these people will slowly slip away because they start living their lives again. What so many on the outside don't realize is that when you are gone, it.is.quiet!! It's quiet, it's VERY lonely, and the grief intensifies for many.
Here's a few of my suggestions for the weeks & months after a death:
- TEXT...this should actually be a weekly reminder for you as a friend to send to your grieving friend. Make a calendar reminder if you have to. This is the easiest thing you can do to help a friend. These texts can be about anything that you think that would make your friend feel comfort & peace. Honestly, this is the easiest and the best form of showing up for your friend.
- "I will bring coffee over on Wednesday. Let me know if that works. We can hang out and talk about whatever or you can take a nap while I do your dishes, simple household chores, take the kids outside, walk the dog, etc" (being specific about how you will help is very important too)
- "Hey we are going to go get pizza tonight, nothing crazy. Will you join us" - (if they say no, let them say no and accept their choice on what they feel like doing. Don't make it about you)
- "I was just thinking about (insert person who died). Tonight I lit a candle in their memory and I just wanted to send you this picture of it. Love you!"
- "I just wanted to let you know that you are in my thoughts today and that whatever you accomplish is enough. No need to reply back, just know I love you and I'm so proud of you"
- Leave them a care package on the front step. Drop by with a card (preferably from Butterflies + Halos ;)), journal, candy, coffee, or anything. Text your friend and say, "Hey, I left something on your front porch. Sending you love today"
- I always try to ask specific questions. "I say how are you today?", instead of "How are you". You will get a completely different response on how you ask.
- Speaking of calendar reminders...set a reminder on your phone for the "big" dates; birthdays, anniversaries, holidays. This is when you can send an awesome greeting card from my shop or even a beautiful text from you.
- Also, do not forget that on the anniversary of the death of someone or even their heavenly birthday, I also offer a card for each of those occasions. I call them "Angelversary" and "Heavenly Birthday"
- Simple thing to say in these cards would be "Your on my mind this week. I know your missing your loved one"
- Remember, every day sucks not just the big dates. So this is your reminder as a friend to a grieving friend...SEND THE TEXT on a random day. This takes a couple minutes of your day, but it may help your friend get through their entire day with peace, love, & calm in their hearts.
- A phone call. Don't forget, a phone call is heartfelt. Call your friend and let them know you are thinking of them and ask about specific things. If your friend lets it go to voicemail, that's ok too. Leave a message and let them know they were on your mind and your are thinking of them.
- Say their persons name that has died. PLEASE, do not avoid their name and the conversations. Ask "What would (insert name of deceased person) think of the (name) football team winning?" or "OMG, I remember when (insert name of deceased person) did ______?" You may get that smile, you will see your friends face light up. You know they are still hurting, but we as grievers love to hear our loved ones names that have died; over & over & over again. The stories keep them alive in our hearts & minds. Trust me on this one.
- Helping a friend through a death is awkward and it's hard. Just be present in their lives, acknowledge their deep grief, and continue to show up even after the 1st month, the 2nd month, the 3rd month, etc.
These are just a few ideas that I know that are tried and true with a friendship. I want to help you help your friend, that is why I am doing what I am doing. Nothing is perfect and no one has all the right answers; but as I have said before we are all "better together", so even though I'm not a "therapist" or a "counselor", I am definitely a grieving mother, widow, sibling, and a grieving friend. These are things that I want or wanted. These are things I still need today even though it's been years since my losses; it never stops, it never goes away, and I still need the acknowledgement and encouragement in life. Remember, the grieving process is a life long journey, it never ends for us.
I am listing some of my top seller cards here that you can send your grieving friend during the first 12 months for their loved ones loss. These are not in any specific order, but that's why I love my cards. My cards are for the grieving friend, not necessarily a "sympathy" card (but someone told me I need some of those, so okay I'm working on them). You can click right on the link and it will direct you to my etsy store. Don't forget, you can buy my cards in multiples and just note in the note section which corresponding number you would like. Even though I supplied you with a list, I highly suggest you look through my card designs and let them speak to you and the relationship you are fostering. (because in my humble opinion, I love all my cards)
- "I don't know what to say...Let's go eat one of those damn casseroles"
- "Take a deep breathe, and know whatever you accomplish today will be enough"
- "Hang in there, this life is bumpy. But always know you are loved deeply"
- "Everything will change in your life, except my love & friendship for you"
- "There are no rules, grief and happiness can exist together"
- "There is not a big enough bandaid for grief"
- "Do not let death dull your light, keep shining beautiful friend"
- "I didn't bring the casserole...I brought the wine, p.j.'s, & my listening heart"
- "I'll listen to you and be the tissue for your tears"
- "There's a rainbow after the rain, we will get through this storm together"
- "The next person that tells you everything happens for a reason, I will throat punch them for you"
- "The grief journey is messy, do it your way"
Thank You so much for letting me share my thoughts and ideas around helping your friend during the grief journey. I know a lot of these you may have heard along the way, you may already do them, or you truly had no idea how to help. I appreciate the support of this entire community and I am loving leaning into my heart and sharing my hope with all of you.