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How to Support a Griever {and 3 things to NEVER do!}

In a world where everybody seems to be grieving, here’s wisdom from guest blogger Crystal Webster – griever, Angel Parent, and founder of Sharing Solace, a community of grievers for grievers.

At least a few times a week I hear “I have a friend that just lost their _______. They’re grieving. What do I do for them?” And, almost always I give the same answer…or, more like, a portion of the same answer… I wanna give you the whole, big, long, juicy answer.

Crystal Webster of Sharing Solace

When someone you love is grieving, I suggest (not) doing one {or all!} of the following:

Talk about the elephant in the room – There’s a quote from Elizabeth Edwards that I think is so accurate: “If you know someone who has lost a child, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died-you’re not reminding them. They didn’t forget they died. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift.” While Elizabeth is specifically talking about children, I think it 1000% applied to all loses. Grievers want to know their loved one LIVED. They haven’t forgotten about them – you’re not going to remind them; you’ll just be reminding them that YOU remember. We love to hear or loved one’s name, we love any and all stories you have. You’re giving us a gift by giving us access to your memories.

Tell (don’t ask) – Please don’t ask how you can help or what you can do. I know you think you’re being helpful – and probably even completely mean the words as said – but someone who is grieving can’t remember what day of the week it is, they’re definitely not going to be able to think through things enough to give you a list. Instead, tell them what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it…and then let them tell you know if they really object. Here are a few of my favorite ideas:

  1. “I’ll be over Tuesday at 5:30 with a funny movie and Chinese takeout. We’ll watch and eat and I’ll do a couple loads of laundry for you.”

  2. “My kids wanna go to the pool Saturday afternoon so I’ll pick your kids up about 2pm. We’ll get pizza after the pool and I’ll have them home by 7. Can I bring you a treat from Sonic when I pick them up and/or some fast food for dinner when I drop them off?”

  3. “I’m going grocery shopping Friday morning. Text me your list and I’ll come over and put them away when I’m done.”

  4. “I need to get some new {insert random, mundane household object here}. I’ll pick you up after work on Monday, I’d love your help! Cool?”

These are ALL things that grievers need {and they often forget that they need – if the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that leaving the house sometimes is good for the soul}. The goal is to be authoritative, but not pushy. You don’t WANT them to say ‘No’ – but you do want them to feel like they can if they needed to.

Companion (don’t compare) – Many people *think* they’re companioning their grieving friend when actually they are just comparing. Companioning is ‘sitting in the suck’, letting their tears flow freely when needed, and being comfortable in the uncomfortable. It’s listening more then talking and being mindfully present with them. Comparing is trying to ‘Debbie Downer’ and one-up their sadness with your own…and can often look like exactly what you’re NOT supposed to do:

Don’t ‘at least’ them – You probably think you’re helping them to find the silver linings, but that’s not what they need right now. In actuality you are belittling their feelings and emotions (when they probably don’t even know what they’re thinking and feeling). Think long and hard before you start a sentence with ‘at least’ {IE at “least they lived to be 87”, “at least you were able to say goodbye”, “at least they’re not in pain anymore”} Yes, those may appear to be silver linings but it really doesn’t make us feel better in the moment. It really just makes us feel guilty for what we’re not doing.

Don’t guilt their grief – Both guilt and grief are 4-letter words in my book. We’ll already full of regret because ‘Could we have done that differently?’, ‘Should we have said…..?’, ‘Why didn’t we…..?’ – we really don’t need any help feeling miserable. Grief is physically and emotionally draining; we’re doing the best we can. Yes, we ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ do a lot of things (the dishes, cleaning, gassing up the car, mowing the lawn…} but we don’t need the reminders of all the things we’re NOT doing or SHOULD have done. Did I mention we’re doing the best we can?

Don’t change your plans (but show compassion) – Grief is uncomfortable for everyone. You, as the friend of the griever, have the luxury of walking away…we have to sit in it for as long as it sticks around. Because it’s so uncomfortable, for everyone, it’s easy to shy away from those grieving… I gotta tell you, the only thing more isolating than grief is losing friends because your grief is too uncomfortable for them! So, please stick around! If you have a weekly coffee date to chit-chat, keep it! {And encourage your griever to keep it as well.} If you have an annual crochet retreat weekend, plan it! If you have a standing movie matinee meet up, see it! …but also give your griever some grace, they may not be ‘all there’ if they do attend, they may cancel last minute because they ‘couldn’t even’, or they may just completely flake out. Their actions are grief induced and they do not reflect directly on you or your relationship.

Hopefully, these dos and don’ts will help you to properly feed and care for your griever. I’m wrapping you in both love and light during these dark times.

Guest blogger Crystal Webster is the founder and Chief Solace Officer of Sharing Solace – and most importantly, she is Maddie’s mama. Sharing Solace is a community of grievers for grievers; melding tangible gifts and meaningful community to help those grieving ‘Remember. You’re not alone.’ Her story of infant loss and infertility is not unique; at the same time, she found herself lonely and debilitated from the grief. She felt compelled to write her debut book in the hope that her adventures in loss, grief, and mourning would encourage others to share their stories, no matter what their grief. Her quirky, irreverent style pulls readers in and creates a safe space to just feel their freaking feels.

For media inquiries please contact Crystal@SharingSolace.com or phone +1 (913) 390-3920‬. Get a copy of her book “Confessions of a Griever: Turning a Hot Mess into a Haute Message” by clicking here.

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