When our son passed away our lives changed forever. Throughout the first year we found it hard to process the different emotions that would come up. Some days we were okay and others we just wanted to stay in the house and avoid everybody. The hardest part was we never knew when our feelings would be triggered. It was also hard when special occasions would come up because while everyone else’s lives have moved on, ours had not. The first year was a constant reminder that our son was gone.
I remember when his birthday came up for the first time since his death. We were not going to get to have a party, take pictures or see him enjoy a special cake. Our phone began to ring and would not stop that entire day. Family and friends were calling us to let us know they were thinking about us and that they also missed him. Knowing he was remembered by others helped us through such a difficult day.
Getting through the firsts can be extremely hard for the family and friends of someone who has passed away. Many people want to show their love and support but are unsure how. Below are some suggestions on how you could reach out to someone grieving.
- Send a card, email or message letting them know you love and care for them. Write upcoming dates and anniversaries (Christmas, birthday, etc…) on your calendar. It is okay to remind yourself to send a message of love and kindness;
- Don’t shy away or stop talking about the person who died. Families usually want to still talk about their loved ones. It is extremely hard for the families when people act like their loved one never existed. Sharing memories, moments and stories can be helpful in the healing process;
- Make a donation to honour their memory to a charity or cause. If they had a particular cause close to their hearts you could donate to that specific one;
- Give back by donating your time to a local shelter, community project or charity in their memory;
- If it was a child who died you could also donate toys or other resources to a children’s hospital or hospice.
- Don’t rely on them to reach out and ask for help, chances are they wont. Be the one who follows though when you offer help. Call them, show up with a meal, clean their house, watch their children, send flowers, mow their lawn or do something else that shows them you truly care;
- Create a special ornament or gift for them that they can put out each year.
- Be understanding if they cancel invitations last minute to different events. One minute they may feel great and want to go and the next are overwhelmed with sadness. If they do not show up, check in on them to be sure. It will also help them to know they are missed and that you are not mad.
A small gesture of kindness can go a long way for someone grieving. You can truly help someone by being the one who follows up long after the death. Your words and actions have the power to help heal a broken heart. Be kind, be patient and be there.