Living through the seasons of grief.
~ Coming along side a friend immediately after the death of someone they love is probably one of the most intentional acts of kindness we can do. But how many of us are hesitant and uncertain about what to do or say. Here are a few ideas that my grieving friends have taught me.
Listening is really important. For those who have witnessed the death of a loved one, it can be traumatic. They need to talk about the details of the dying process as well as their feelings about it. Knowing this need, may help us as we find ourselves listening to details of a dying person we might be unprepared for. Some on their death bed struggle painfully for an extended time; others may go quickly and quietly. As a listener, I think it is helpful to offer acceptance and understanding even when the story might cause us to feel uncomfortable. (Being a comforter is never about us.) If the death was the result of violence or an accident, the bereaved will need to talk about the details surrounding the last few hours or moments before their loved one died. On the other hand, if suicide was the cause of death, your friend might find it very difficult to talk unless they know you are completely safe for them to share with.
These kinds of trusted listeners are discerning, discrete, gentle, and wise. They know that this conversation needs to be kept in confidence and held safe from others who may not handle the information with care and protection.
An important thing to remember is that for nearly all the bereaved, after they have processed these memories of their grief experience, they eventually move past it, and you will have been a valuable “first responder.” You would have supported them through this earliest of grieving experiences.
So, what to do when you aren’t sure if your grieving friend has already processed their memories? Simply asking, “Have you talked to anyone yet about the day your husband died?” If they say “yes,” you could give them the opportunity to continue the conversation by offering, “Do you want to talk about it anymore?” Then just listen. If they answer, “No” you might respond by saying, “When you feel ready, I am here for you and will be honored to listen.” If you don’t feel you would do well listening to the details of a death story, then it might be best to offer support in other ways. To do so, take a look at more blogs on the “Conversions for the Comforter” page.