FTP: Helping the Grieving
Readers, please note: My “stuff” this week is of a serious nature. No fluff or jokes this week. The Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University is where I did my studies for becoming a minister. It was a five year program of attending summer school and being taught by the regular professors who taught full time during the school year. The professors did not offer us any slack. One class I took was about ethics and morals in the Church. During this class we did some role playing designed to make us more aware of our role as a leader and problem solver for the church. One of these scenarios dealt with the death and dying process. Some, many, most people do not want to have a conversation about this less than pleasant subject. Little did I know I would refer to my notes and the book for this class on more than one occasion.
Let me do some teaching about what a person can do to help a grieving friend or acquaintance. It goes, without saying, that this is a very difficult and awkward conversation. You want to help but you don’t know what to say. It is certainly difficult. It is difficult for you, but it is even more difficult for the person grieving the loss of their loved one.
Let me offer some ways to negotiate this minefield.
First, just call the griever and say you just heard about the passing of their loved one and offer your condolences (A card with a few short personal written lines is also a good thing because it can be seen and read over and over again). You have just done the hardest part. You took action.
Next, and this is important, don’t go into a long conversation relating how you lost a loved one and how it was for you. At this moment the griever does not care about your past experience and hearing how you felt and how you dealt with the loss. Lastly just say “I am sorry for your loss, is there anything I can do to help?” That’s it. Done. You might offer to provide a meal, watch the kids, mow the yard, or wash the car, because these things have to be done before the funeral and it might be weighing on the griever’s mind.
Please push two or three times to provide a meal and give them options of meals and days of delivering the meal. This may take some perseverance and some “holding your ground” on this one, but it is needed and will be appreciated by the family. I was told by a church member these things were not done and it left a deep bruise that took time to heal. You could just offer to go sit with the griever and “just be there.” They may or may not want to talk, but at least you offered. Maybe offer again, and bring along a snack and drinks and “just be there again”. Grief is different for everybody and each person deals with it in their own way. A helping hand or kind words make the difficult journey easier.
The next time you hear of a friend or family member that has lost a loved one, follow what I have offered here. Hopefully it will make a difficult time a little more bearable because of your caring actions.