After the death of a loved one, there is inevitably a litany of never-ending questions, including “What can I do to help?” or “Call me if you need anything.” Grieving individuals seldom have the strength to communicate their immediate needs mostly because they don’t know what they are. This is when Don’t ask, Just do enters the picture. As a concerned caregiver, you can be the helper, the shoulder, the strength, the logic and the anchor that the bereaved person desperately needs.
As a supporter, the best way to aid a grieving person is to quietly listen. Typically, he or she will convey intense emotions coupled with minimal logic. Since the words that are often filled with anger, guilt and sadness may not make sense, you should try to ease the anguish without judging. Avoid the use of clichés, as they hurt more than they help.
Time is at a standstill for those who are grieving. On the surface it may look as if everything is under control, but it’s not. The past daily routines consisting of work, school, chores, carpooling, working out and reading the newspaper are no longer a priority for the person who is grieving. In fact, not fulfilling these needs create additional anxiety. Not only do already existing responsibilities need attention, new tasks are added to the list resulting from the death. The role of the supporter is to maintain as much normalcy in the daily routine as possible; and this challenge should not be underestimated.
When Rod passed away suddenly, I lost all logic to cope with the situation. What I needed most was someone to take charge of my household and “think” for me. This included making the telephone calls that would inform others of his death, coordinating the arrangements for out of town family and friends who would be attending the funeral, funeral arrangements, keeping track of the condolence gifts sent to the house, restocking essential household supplies (e.g., toilet paper), preparing food, feeding my daughter and changing her diaper and ensuring that I was taking care of myself. At the time, I would never have been able to communicate all these needs to my family and friends. Depending on the situation, here are a few Just do’s:
Rachel Kodanaz is an author, speaker and consultant who provides encouragement to those who are suffering a loss or setback. She is the author of Living with Loss, One Day at a Time and Grief in the Workplace.
Join Our Email List