Q: Dear Stacy: The last two years seem to be flooded with loss and news of family and friends receiving life changing health diagnosis. Each time I feel lost of how to help or comfort. What is your advice when it comes to dealing with grief or coping with painful news?
A: Dear Feeling Lost: Thank you for your question. I am sure there are many readers who completely relate with feeling unsure of how to help others deal or cope with their grief/loss. Social media seems to be flooded with such sad news at times, but having shared collective experiences that can be expressed in a public way can be helpful for some.
We often believe we need to talk it through, but in reality people who are dealing with grief/loss just need you to listen or be present, sometimes even in silence. We all grieve differently and there is no time limit on grieving our losses. When you look up resources on grief and loss (there are a ton!) you find that grieving happens in stages, but not everyone goes through these stages or in any particular order.
Often times, we say “If you need me, I am here”, but ultimately we get hurt when the person never reaches out. My suggestion is if you want to comfort or help someone through grief/loss or with painful news, just do it! Take food over, or get it delivered. Start a GoFundMe page or other donations, send cards, make calls, or create a photo album of great memories. Don’t say things like, “It happens for a reason,” “They are in a better place,” a simple, “I am sorry for your loss” will do.
If ever there was a time for “Actions speak louder than words”, this would be that time. If they have kids, babysit them so they can go out or simply have some alone time, or make them dinner; go over and do housework or run errands for them. Just Be Present and Do! Everyone is different and you want to be respectful of people’s space and privacy, but in today’s world, we truly need to show AUTHENTIC love and compassion to one another. I experienced this authentic love and compassion as my family and I lost an uncle in August 2020 and that same week his wife, my aunt, was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer.
Then in January 2021, we lost my father in law to COVID-19 and a friend to a violent crime. To top it off, my aunt passed away in April 2021, just 8 short months after her diagnosis. Throughout this time there were also acquaintances and friends of friends who passed away for a variety of reasons. I share my experience to say that what helped me and my family was support – cards, donations, food and time sharing memories, photos and stories. I want to thank everyone who supported my family and friends during these times, it was appreciated beyond measure.
My grief/loss is less intense, but it is still ever so present in my heart and my mind. The fact that I can no longer call my aunt (my mentor, my second mom, my friend) is beyond believable. She is the reason I became a Social Worker and I know she would be proud of this column. I talk to her occasionally and let her know that she is missed, but that we are all okay. “In our hearts, we all know that death is a part of life. In fact, death gives meaning to our existence because it reminds us how precious life is.”