How to Handle a Grieving Person

Something terrible has happened to someone close to you and you don’t know what to do or say.  Chances are you are going to say something stupid, that’s ok, that’s kind of expected.  But as I go through this experience I have noticed some things that most people just don’t understand or wouldn’t think of.  Things that make the situation more uncomfortable than it has to be.

You want to sympathize, you want to make sure that person knows you feel for them.  For me personally it’s very hard.  My basic rule is if I’m acting normal, if I’m smiling or even laughing please don’t ask how I’m doing.  Let me pretend things are normal.  If I tell you things are ok or as ok as they can be please leave it at that.  The process of losing a loved one, much less a husband is exhausting.  There is so much more to deal with than just grief and sometimes I just don’t want to rehash everything a hundred times a day.  Sometimes I want to live in the moment.

Also please don’t be offended if I don’t want to discuss every aspect of the illness or passing with you.  I believe that every person has a key circle of family and friends they reach out to constantly for support.  It’s nothing against you if you don’t happen to fall into that circle.  I don’t respond to texts, emails, instant messages because I just don’t have time and because each response encourages further interactions and conversations I don’t have energy for.  Sometimes I don’t want to talk about the worst thing that has ever happened to me.  I know that people don’t consider that when they start prying, they don’t even see themselves as prying, but it is.

If a grieving person doesn’t respond to your questions or dodges them it’s not because they aren’t dealing with their grief, it’s because they don’t want to deal with their grief with you or in public.

Next, you want to help, you offer it.  “Just tell me what you need.”  What a great sentiment, really it is.  Trouble with it is that when dealing with a million thoughts, feelings, and pains added to daily life delegation of these tasks to another person is nearly impossible.  Thinking of what you could do or what would fit with your life and schedule is really a hard thing to do add to that that the person isn’t functioning on all cylinders and you will be met with a smile and a nod.

What’s better?  Just do something if you want to do it.  Point in case when my best friend was here she cleaned my entire house.  I didn’t ask her to do it but it was the nicest thing she could have done.  I came home and had a clear uncluttered space when everything else was falling apart.  My cousin had my car detailed, my dad fed my goats and sheep and dogs, my mom and step dad bought me 10lbs of coffee and 105 pounds of cat litter and fixed every light bulb in my bar.  If you want to help just do it, don’t wait for us to point at something.

It’s heart warming to know so many people care but it’s also overwhelming, if you sense a person needs space it’s ok to give it.


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