When someone you love loses someone they love, it's nearly impossible to know what to do for them. The first thing I said to the first person I told about the loss of my baby boy was, "I know, there's nothing you can say." There were no words that would make me feel better and wanted to let her off the hook.
My experience of losing my 5-week-old son to SIDS has taught me a few things about how to help other people who are dealing with loss of any kind. I've come up with a list of the best ways to really help someone in the emotionally taxing situation of losing a loved one, in hopes of helping you navigate those complicated waters.
1. Write something memorable in their card.
The only thing I really wanted from other people was to know that they were thinking about me and my family. Whether someone sent a card, flowers, a text, or email, it was so great to know that they had us in their thoughts and prayers. Knowing so many people were thinking about us and praying for our comfort really helped me cope with those raw, early days following my son's death.
2. Make them a meal.
For me, the grief from my loss was so consuming, simple things like making meals and cleaning the house were tasks I just could not do on a regular basis. For the first several months, every day was completely unpredictable and I would never know if I'd be able to function that day or be stuck in my bed under the covers all day. I remember the meals the most and appreciated them immensely because of the amount of time, effort and thought someone had put into that simple act. It's easy for you but could mean the world to them.
3. Give them your phone number.
I had a lot of people I could call when I had bad days, I just usually chose not to. Still, when someone just gave me their phone number or email address and said, "Call or email me anytime" I was beyond grateful. The gesture meant so much to me, whether I used them as a resource or not. Then, when days came up that threatened to take me down, I would have a network of people to help with my daughter when I encountered an emotional crisis. Some of the numbers I got saved me several times.
4. Check in regularly.
Right after the death of my son, everyone was wonderful. Condolences were numerous and hugs were plentiful. Then, a few weeks after the funeral, the calls and contact became few and far between. This was extremely hard for me because I felt like I had no support. My suggestion to you is to set a reminder on your phone for every two weeks (or whatever amount of time you are comfortable with) to call, text or visit the person who recently lost someone. You thinking about them long after the hubbub of the funeral will mean the world to them.
5. Be genuine.
When talking to them, be as sincere as possible. Look them in the eyes and convey your genuine sympathies. Keeping in mind the constitution of the person, you can hug them or give their arm or hand a squeeze. They will appreciate it so much more than pointless platitudes and standoffish behavior, both of which do them no good. Most of all, DO NOT tell them they'll get over it or time will heal their wounds. They know that already. They just need your support.
I hope this list was helpful and gives you an idea of how to help someone who is dealing with loss.
What tips or ideas would you add to this list?