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How to be be there for someone who has lost a loved one

I was going to do a blog series on various aspects of grief. I know what you’re thinking – whip out the barbeque grill and the margarita jugs, FUN. I know it’s not the most enthralling topic ever. However I only realised, after my mother passed away, how clueless humans can be when it comes to supporting/being in the general proximity of someone who is grieving. I didn’t know how it felt to be on the receiving end until it happened to me and perhaps that is one of the blessing of going through a shitstorm, that you learn how to help others navigate through their own shitstorms.

1. DON’T IGNORE IT
If a friend, family friend or even acquaintance loses someone please do not hear about it and choose not to contact them. ‘I’m not that close to him/her’ or ‘I want to give them space’ are NOT legitimate excuses. Texting or Emailing is a way to communicate concern whilst still giving space. I admit it can be terribly awkward discussing death. You know you can’t do anything significant to minimize their pain. You don’t even know what on earth to say after the initial 2 line condolence spiel. However one line/word of encouragement will suffice because if you think the person didn’t notice that you knew and didn’t contact them, you couldn’t be more wrong. When someone loses a loved one they feel like their world has stopped and that loss is the biggest event on earth. When they know someone knows and didn’t even acknowledge it’s glaring and frankly crappy. PS it is never too late to acknowledge it even if you didn’t when it first happened.

2. DON’T SAY ‘I KNOW EXACTLY HOW YOU FEEL’
No you freaking don’t. What you may have is an idea of how it feels but even if you lost the same figure in your life with whom you shared the same type of relationship. Your loss is not the same as theirs. It sounds patronizing. Some people are even selfish enough to say they feel the loss of YOUR loved one far more than you do.*Side eye*

3. DON’T SAY ‘CALL ME IF YOU NEED ANY THING’
This one will be controversial. It’s totally fine to say that if you and the person grieving had that sort of relationship prior to them losing their loved one. Otherwise, I think it’s a total cop out/very lazy approach to helping if you know they are unlikely to call you and you will probably only consider being there for them if they call you and grovel at your feet. If you really want to help someone you care about who is going through the worst experience of their lives YOU call them, YOU show up and be YOU choose to be there for them.

4. DON’T MAKE INAPPROPRIATE/IDIOTIC COMMENTS
Some people use death as an excuse to ask questions they have no right to ask about personal family information or ask too many details about how the deceased passed away far too soon ignoring the fact that every time the deceased’s loved one has to give that detailed account, they are reliving it. Some people don’t understand that people grieve differently. Some people cry, some engage in self destructive behaviours, Some act out whilst some act totally normal, like nothing happened. I recall one woman  yelling at me repeatedly a day or two after my mother died ‘You must smile, you can’t look sad, you have to smile!’. If that isn’t sheer madness…. I don’t know what is.

See you tomorrow for another post! Gros Bisous

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