Tonight I’m writing about a topic that has been weighing on me for the past couple months. As some of you may know from reading my recent posts, my grandpa passed away unexpectedly on Christmas morning. This also happened to be my 28th birthday. It was the worst day of my life. My grandpa and I have always been close. He was one of my very favorite people. My world, and my family’s, stopped spinning that day, but everyone else’s lives continued on.
When people found out about my grandpa’s death, many friends expressed how sorry they were for my loss through texts and Facebook comments. But why did some of these messages leave me feeling more empty than supported?
Text messages and social media are great inventions, but I think some of us (my generation especially) have lost touch with the importance of real touch, real connections.
When someone you love loses someone they love, it’s hard to know what to do or what to say. I’ve been the friend who did nothing, and I’ve been the friend who in hindsight didn’t do enough. A few years ago, a friend of mine lost his dad. I didn’t find out until later, and at the time, we weren’t as close as we used to be. Now that I’m a little older, I really regret not reaching out to him. Last year, another friend’s father died. I went to the visitation and donated to the memorial fund, but looking back, I wish that I had done more. I wanted to do more. I just really didn’t know what to do.
After experiencing my grandpa’s death, I finally understand what I should have done when my friends lost their loved ones. I wanted to share these tips with other people who don’t know what to do.
When someone you love loses someone they love, you should:
-Be present. This is the most important thing you can do. So how can you be present?
- If you live within driving distance, go to the visitation or the funeral. Even if you didn’t know the deceased person well, going to the visitation is a sign of support to your friend. It will mean a lot to them to see you there.
- General offers of assistance are fine, but being specific is better. If you say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do”, your grieving friend likely isn’t going to take you up on it. Instead, ask something like, “Would it be better for me to bring food by your house on Thursday or Friday?”
- If you live too far away or can’t make it to the visitation for another reason, send flowers or a plant to the funeral home in memory of the deceased. Or, give a monetary gift in memory of your friend’s loved one. If you’re not financially able to send flowers or give money, then mail a card to your friend. A handwritten note will mean a lot.
- If you live far away, but still want to help out, consider sending your friend a gift card to a restaurant that has delivery or carry out available. In the days and weeks to come, your friend is likely to have days where they can’t seem to make it to the grocery store and can’t bring themselves to cook. A gift card would be much appreciated for times like this.
- Call. You may feel like you don’t want to bother your friend, but trust me, if your friend doesn’t want to talk, they won’t answer. You should still call. Ask how your friend is holding up, and then listen. Really listen.
- Offer to meet up for dinner whenever your friend is ready. Ask your friend to share their favorite memories of the deceased person.
So what if your friend lost someone they love a few weeks or months ago and you didn’t do any of the above things? It’s not too late. You should:
- Call or offer to meet up. Apologize for not being there for your friend. And start being there. Ask how they’re holding up. Ask about your friend’s favorite memories of the deceased person. And listen.
- Send a card to let your friend know you’re thinking about them and offer condolences.
- Check in on your friend. Don’t be afraid to ask about the deceased person. Bringing up their name won’t remind your friend that they’ve lost someone they love. Trust me, they already know and think about it all the time. Bringing up the deceased person’s name means that you remember that that person lived and once played an integral role in your friend’s life. Bringing up their name shows that you recognize that your friend’s loss is now part of who your friend is.
And what about if your friend lost someone they love quite awhile ago and you didn’t do any of the above? It might not be too late. You should:
-Again, be present.
- Contact your friend, whether it’s by calling, or mailing a letter, or meeting up. Apologize for not being there during that difficult time when your friend lost someone they loved. Again, ask them to share their favorite memories. Open up the floor and let them share as much or as little as they want. The most important thing you can do is be there for your friend and listen.
If you take away one thing from this post, it’s that it is never too late to try to be there for your friend. Grief changes over time, but it never completely goes away. Your friend may not have brought up their loved one’s name around you, but that doesn’t mean they don’t miss that person or want to talk about them. Months or years may have passed, but you can still be present for your friend right now. Be the person that asks, “How are you?” and then really, really listens.