Grief Explained to Friends of the Grieving
Before starting, if you don’t know about my past, my son, Liam Alexander Flores, died August 28th 2014. He wasn’t a miscarriage. He wasn’t a stillborn. He was a living, breathing, child, born and living for a week before he died due to nearly every complication a preemie baby can have. [Learn more…]
In the picture above is my daughter who was born on January 13, 2019, after my wife was in the hospital for about a month and then followed by her being in the NICU for about 5 weeks. Before we were pregnant with her, we dealt with nearly 4 years of infertility after losing our son.
Let me explain something very clearly. She is the light of my eyes, and what makes me smile now, but she is not her brother. Her brother was a fighter and in many ways, she is similar and very strong willed in general. She will never replace him though.
So, with this knowledge, consider some of these ideas to help those who may be grieving around you.
Be a friend.
Being a true friend sometimes means shutting up and sitting in silence with someone. In terms of grief many people don’t want to talk about it. Sometimes they don’t know how to say things rather than they don’t want to talk about it. Friendship is being patient, and in these instances, patience is the key to helping. There are also many people who don’t want to be bothered, and sometimes just a quick text of “hey just thinking of you” can be enough for them. It can be once a week, with no response from them either but they will not forget it. In my personal experience, this was a huge help and it wasn’t for about 6 months before I thanked some of the people who did this when I needed it most and in many cases I didn’t text them back because I couldn’t emotionally handle it.
Things NOT to say:
“At least…” it doesn’t matter what you say after this, it means you are demeaning their feelings. To a grieving person, this makes them feel like there is something worse that could have happened, but the fact is they just lost someone dear to them, so to that person, this is the end of the world.
“Be positive”… Grief is hard, don’t make it harder by creating impossible expectations for a grieving person. Positivity is hard enough to have now a days, much less after a death.
“I know how you feel”… In very rare instances is this statement true, because everyone has their own relationships with those around them, so even if you had the same kind of friend or relative pass away, it doesn’t mean you had the same emotional connection with them as the person grieving. Listen to the person and how they feel, and be able to empathize with them, but don’t relate your own experience to exactly how they feel, as it may vary wildly.
“I can’t imagine…” No, anyone can imagine, but the pain is too hard for people to follow through with. This phrase makes you alienate yourself from the grieving person and that you could never possibly relate to what they say so you don’t even want to try. As a friend you should strive to understand what they are going through and help them as best as you can, if they want you to.
“God needed another Angel”…. I have my own religious beliefs that help me personally not to believe in this phrase but to many, this is NOT an encouraging statement. It means that a supposedly loving God, took a loved one away even though he has many helpers. This statement does not help but hurts more, and makes people feel like there was a force that wanted their loved one dead, and that’s just wrong.
Things to Say:
Before starting this list, everyone knows to say “I’m so sorry for your loss, what can I do to help?” a grieving person never knows what they need!!! The emotional turmoil is to much to handle mentally in most cases. So, this is a list of things to say in ADDITION to that.
“I didn’t know them personally, is there anything that you want to share that you remember about them?”…. this is what I personally wanted people to ask me more, and I imagine a lot of people want this question asked but don’t know it. After they tell you, just listen and respond appropriately as in most cases they will be positive or funny stories. (Or at least you hope, people are complicated though.)
“I would like to bring you and your family food, what day works well?”… never ask if it’s OK to bring food over, it’s rare its not. Usually its better to offer food in a way that gives the person an option as to when you can just drop it off. If they don’t ant the food, they will let you know, but if you ask if they would like a meal, many people will say no out of an odd sense of politeness.
“I am always here to talk if you need it”… is the most commonly said thing after “I’m sorry for your loss” but you can’t force someone to talk to you. At least saying this will let the grieving party to have the permission they didn’t know they were waiting for to let their guts spill out. But don’t say this if you don’t mean it.
Although there are a ton of things to say and not to say to people who are grieving this covers some basics.
Things to do:
Give them a meal. As mentioned earlier, this can be a simple but easy task to do of just making them some food and dropping it off. Try to call or text beforehand though to 1, make sure they are home and 2, they will answer the door. 3, if there are food allergies, 4, extra family is over and 5, they don’t already have an overabundance of food. People don’t want to make food when they are grieving in many cases, so help them out.
Give them paper products. This sounds a bit weird, but tissues, toilet paper, and paper towels run out fast when you’re crying and the last thing you want to do when you’ve been crying is go out and buy toilet paper. This is something me and my family do because it was the first thing we had to go to the store for during our grieving and it was extremely hard. Paper plates and bowls is another thing along the same route as no one wants to clean dishes. Not as eco-friendly yes, but when someone you love has just died, it’s rare the planet is the first thing on your mind.
Text or Call out of the Blue. Don’t expect them to answer, let that be said first. But being thought of can go a long way. Also, not expecting them to get back to you is another thing that matters in this regard.
Ask if you can come over. Don’t just show up. As much as you might think that’s a good idea, many people don’t think so when they might have been in the middle of crying their eyes out. If they say no, don’t push them.
Be Patient. Patience is hard, why lie. But grief is harder and sometimes we need to give space, and other times we need to know when to step in and help even when they say no. Always think before you assume their “no” actually means a cry for help, as most of the time it DOES means “no please go away.” Just be there for them. Giving them space does not mean you ignore them, continue to invite them to things and let them decided when they are ready to do things again.
Grief is a War field and there are always going to be mines. With this in mind, try to be there for the grieving as they endure the trials of loss and be as good as a friend as you can. Don’t forget them.
Jadon Flores is a freelance writer who is a rainbow baby father to a beautiful little girl. Although most of his article are beer-related as he has been deep within the beer industry, he also writes from personal experience about being a father, handling child loss and confronting grief. Follow him on Instagram @brewjayofficial and on Twitter @BrewJayO