When we lost our son, it occurred to me that the average person has no idea how to help. It isn't that they don't want to help, it's just that they have no clue what to do. And unfortunately, when you are in the midst of Grief, you aren't in a very good position to tell them, either. So I decided that it's time someone shared some helpful information on the subject. Now, keep in mind, this is just my opinion, so take it or leave it.
*DO- Be there for them. Hug them, hold their hand, sit quietly with them, let them know you love them.
*DON'T- Tell them you understand, unless you have actually been in their shoes.
*DO- Bring over meals (even if they say they aren't hungry, they will need to eat, and are more likely to do so if it is made and right in front of them)
*DON'T- Offer trite words, like "It'll be ok in time." or "God only gives you what you can handle." or "There's a reason for everything." etc, etc, etc. Trust me, that is NOT what they want or need to hear, and it does not make them feel any better.
*DO- Acknowledge their loss.
*DON'T- Pretend like it didn't happen, or think that ignoring it will make it go away. If dealing with death makes you uncomfortable, imagine how they are feeling. Suck it up, and make an effort.
*DO- Respect their wishes. Everyone grieves differently, so if they say they need some time or space, give it to them.
*DON'T- Expect them to be over it, just because you are.
*DO- Continue to check in, and ask how they are doing. Grief (especially when you lose a child.) is forever, not just during the funeral.
*DON'T- Stop inviting them to things, and including them in special events. They may opt out for awhile, but the choice should be theirs, and they shouldn't feel left out just because you didn't know how to deal with them.
*DO- Be patient. Grieving parents are dealing with emotions and issues that you cannot imagine. And anything can trigger a response. Please don't take it personal.
*DON'T- Expect too much. If you are waiting to see the person you knew before the loss, you may be waiting a long time. Grief changes people, so be prepared to deal with those changes if you want that person in your life.
*DO- Offer condolences, sympathy and empathy. They are appreciated, even long after the loved one has passed.
*DON'T- Pity them. Yes, they suffered a great loss, but they are trying to be normal again, so treat them that way.
*DO- Talk about their loved one. Share stories, photos and memories. Say their name. These things mean more to them than you'll ever know.
*DON'T- Act like their loved one never existed. Trust me, you aren't reminding them of their loss, they haven't forgotten it.
*DO- Let them talk about their loved one.
*DON'T- Shy away from it or change the subject. They need to share their memories, and if you care about them, you should listen.
*DO- Remember special days, and anniversaries. Send a note, or call them, or do something special to honor their loved one.
*DON'T- Judge them. Grief is as unique as the individuals suffering, and until you have walked in their shoes, you have no right to make assumptions. Just because someone isn't crying, doesn't mean they aren't in pain. Sometimes a smile, a laugh or a joke is covering a broken soul, not a cold heart.
Bottom line is this... Grief is hard. It's hard on the ones suffering, and it's hard on those trying to help. You are going to say or do the wrong thing from time to time, and that's ok. If you are sincere in your concern, and you are making an effort, they will see that, and love you for it. And when in doubt... just give them a hug.