How do you comfort someone in grief?greenspun.com : LUSENET : Novenotes : One Thread
How do you comfort someone in grief?--Al
-- Al Schroeder (email@example.com), August 12, 2000
DAMN!!! I thought I called that moratorium a year ago. I thought someone would listen. When our first son died, someone counted how many peers of our children had died in the then-23 years we'd lived here. At that time the count was 30. Accidents...murders...disease... The first PEER I'd ever had die was my sister, but she was 24 and I was 28. I never knew a kid who died. My children have lived with the deaths of their friends--and siblings--all their lives. But that wasn't your question, was it?
We've actually been dealing with this on another forum. I don't know what *you* found helpful, Al, but the answer I gave there was basically just to "be" there. If you are comfortable making contact, call, let the one in grief talk about the person they have lost. We are so damned afraid of people's tears. We can't fix anything. We don't have to fix anything. I can't tell you the number of people who didn't want to bring up Paul's or David's names for fear of upsetting me. As if by not talking about them, I wouldn't think about them. It always helped me to be able to talk about my children after they died, and the people who were the biggest help were those who let me and who didn't feel awkward because they couldn't "fix it" for me. They were just "here" and that was wonderful.
Don't say "what can I do to help?" or "call me if you need anything." The bereaved won't be able to think straight and won't feel comfortable calling afterwards. Offer something concrete..."Can I.... (bring you a meal....pick up something for you...bring you a dinner...) ...whatever you feel comfortable doing. It gives the bereaved a chance to say yes or no, depending on their comfort level--but they don't have to come up with some sort of thing you can do so that you feel better.
If you don't feel comfortable making voice or in-person contact, write a note. Be sure to include a memory of the one who died, if you have one. I treasured the messages I received with notes about a personal recollection of the kids. I learned a lot about my children that way.
Ask if there is a contribution you can make in the name of the person who died. It seems so little, but it really does help when people see how much the deceased meant to other people.
Don't expect a grieving person to be in heavy grief at all times. Sometimes you cry, sometimes you laugh. Sometimes you sit and stare into space. There's no "right" emotion. But try to be sensitive to the mood. I got so tired of "putting on grief" just when I had a break and was feeling normal for a minute...just because someone new felt they were going to make me feel better. I appreciated each and every person for their concern, but I grew to dread the question..."How ARE you?"
And, Al, I don't know how you felt, but I don't care if I ever see another floral arrangement again. This house was filled, top to bottom with flowers. It was a wonderful gesture, but I personally would rather that the money had gone to help someone living, not be spent on "useless flowers." (Not to put down flower-givers..."useless flowers" is a phrase used in one of the songs my son wrote... "I bought her useless flowers...and all they did was die...")
Sorry this is long. It's a subject I've given much too much thought to. As one of our living sons said, "I hate it that we know what we're doing." I hate knowing so much about this subject.
-- Bev Sykes (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 12, 2000.
Bev pretty covers everything, I think. Be there, offer services, some obviously helpful thing, such as a trip to the grocery store, that needs to be done. Take them out for coffee or a meal. Listen or sit in calm silence with the person. Be ready and willing to talk about the good memories, but be sensitive to the mood of the one in grief. Hopefully I will be mature enough to intelligently go with the flow without causing the griever to go into a depression. I have often wondered how I would try to comfort Heather if we lost one of our children or grandchildren. In the case of the deaths of our parents a few years ago, it seems to me that the main thing we did for eaach other was just to be there and be receptive to the mood of the one grieving.
-- Denver doug (email@example.com), August 12, 2000.
Listen well. Love hard.
-- Planet Earth (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 13, 2000.