Adapted Dec 5 2017
As a grief coach, this is one of the most important nuggets of advice that I can share. I know what it feels like to have people shit the bed on this, and it sucks, to say the least. Time and time again I get asked “My boyfriend/boss/bestie/bro/mom/colleague whoever is grieving, what the eff can I do!?”
The answer is – a lot. I know it ain’t easy, so let’s help you help those you love shall we? Below are my top 3 tips for helping your loved on through grief.
#1 – Just. Show. Up
The absolute best way you can be there for a loved one in the midst of grief (for whatever reason) is by simply* showing up.
*Showing up actually isn’t so simple. Its confusing and scary and there’s no guidebook. Do it anyways. Be present and be genuine.
“Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up” – Brene Brown
There’s nothing you can express that can make someone’s grief go away, so get over the need to try. Just be there. Sit with the grieving and allow them to feel the comfort and support of your presence. Even when its silent, even and especially when its uncomfortable – show up. Acknowledge that they are in extreme pain, and offer your support.
Showing up does not look like giving unsolicited advice, offering reasons why the loss happened or why it’s all gonna be okay. These are tempting because it’s what most of us have been taught, but try to steer clear.
#2 – Be Specific + Integral
Be specific and integral in your offers to help. For example, “I’m heading to the grocery store this afternoon what can I bring you?” or “I can come over tomorrow and do your laundry or just sit with you,” or really anything that is concrete, specific and shows the person you are truly willing to show up and be there for them during this painful, confusing and terrifying time.
Simply saying “let me know if I can help with anything” and then sitting on your laurels ain’t helpful. It’s a cop out, and one I most often hear from folks who don’t genuinely wanna help. #realtalk. Be integral with your word, meaning, whatever you offer to do, do it.
#3 – Assume Nothing
There are a lot of false ideas in our culture about how, when and why we should grieve. We often tell ourselves things about grieving to make ourselves – not the griever – feel better.
“I bet she wants to be alone right now,” “It’s been six months already, I’m sure they’re doing much better,” or “He’s so strong, he’ll get through this just fine.”
A lot of this BS is a result of our (i.e. – the Western) deathphobic society. We’re terrified by death or loss of any kind and we freeze in our tracks when we’re forced to confront it – so we let our minds run the show (often subconsciously) and give us any excuse not to actually do the hard work of asking questions and checking in. I urge you not to subscribe to this way of thinking.
Don’t assume the person can handle it solo, wants to be alone or has enough people around them. Don’t assume that he/she isn’t grieving just because their loss wasn’t over a death. Don’t assume that it gets better with time or that there’s some sort of time cap on grief.
Don’t assume a damn thing. Instead, ASK. Check-in with the person and ask how he/she is doing, if they do or do not wanna talk about, and how you can best support them.
Want more advice on how to help a loved one through grief? Head to www.lossandfoundxo.com or follow @lossandfoundxo on IG.
Rachel “RayRay” Ricketts is a grief coach, death doula, writer and founder of loss&found, an organization helping folks minimize their pain and move through grief from whatever life’s thrown their way. As a loss sur-thriver and lawyer, she’s merged her love of advocacy with her passion for helping others through challenging times. Through coaching, e-courses, workshops and retreats she offers you practical tools for coping when times get tough and guides you to lead a more joyful, passionate and purposeful life. Rachel loves donuts, dancing and all things meta-physical. Catch up with her at www.lossandfoundxo.com or Instagram @lossandfoundxo.