As I helped someone write the eulogy for a close family member, I took the opportunity to reflect on the difficulty involved in losing a loved one. I walked in those shoes when my husband died, and the support of my family and friends was the only thing that sustained me during this difficult time. Death is always a challenge to talk about with your family, but at some point, we’ll all face the uncomfortable reality of losing a loved one. The love of our friends and family plays a big role in how we cope with the new loss. Here are a few ways that you can help a friend who has recently suffered the loss of a loved one.
Be available to listen. Sometimes, people just need to say what they are feeling, so make sure you are available to listen without judging. This is a good action to take for someone who has a terminal sick family member as well as a friend who just lost a loved one.
Your friend can use some help in notifying people about the funeral services. It’s difficult to relive the passing of a loved one again and again as friends and family are notified, and you can lessen this burden by helping with the notifications.
Write your feelings if you aren’t good in face-to-face communications. Write the eulogy, a note to the family or recall the good times that you enjoyed. Getting it down on paper can help you and the family member(s) who read it.
Invite your friend to dinner or do take-out. It’s the thought and having someone to lean on that counts, so don’t worry about the restaurant or food. Invite them to do something they like to do such as go for a walk, shopping, etc. Checking in to see how he/she is doing and giving your friend the opportunity to express his/her feelings does a world of good.
Help them through the mounds of paperwork if you’ve been through any part of it before. A little assistance goes a long way in relieving the stress of not knowing which way to turn next.
Remember that the grieving process does not end with the funeral. Your friend probably doesn’t even know what he/she needs right now. It takes time to deal with the emptiness, so allow your friend the space to cope with grief and begin on the road to recovery.
Some people need to have something tangible to hold onto, and some of the best ideas can come at this time. Don’t shoot down a friend’s ideas as “pie in the sky”. Encourage them to develop their ideas more fully and take a little time before committing to financial obligations. As I was coping with losing my husband, Patient Scrubs begin to form in my mind. It was a way that I could do the two things that were important to me: honor my husband and help others. I still appreciate that my friends advised me to take things slowly. Patient Scrubs is stronger because I took the time to develop my idea and design garments that addressed the needs of a variety of medical treatments.
The grieving process can seem never-ending, but it will change. One day when it’s least expected, your friend can share his/her story without breaking down. Today, it may seem impossible, but your friend will get there. Count on it.