Losing a loved one is never easy, but during the COVID-19 pandemic isolation has made grieving even harder. Traditionally, we show support for a grieving person by gathering to pay our respects, giving them a hug, paying them a visit or even taking them out for dinner. In a million different ways, big and small, supporting someone who is grieving is about showing them we care. But during the pandemic, showing our support has gotten a lot harder.
Even though we can’t be together in person, DON’T DO NOTHING. It is more important than ever to show and tell our loved ones that we care. There are still plenty of ways to support your loved one during this difficult time. Below are five tips for supporting someone who is grieving.
Help Them With Planning/ Practical Tasks
When someone passes away, the “to-do” list of practical tasks seems extremely long. From paperwork to funeral planning there is so much to do. You can help your grieving friend by taking some of the practical tasks off their plate.
One great option is offering to help them plan a virtual memorial/funeral. For many, funerals and memorials provide a sense of closure for the deceased’s loved ones. But in the age of coronavirus, these events aren’t possible or are extremely limited in scope. The first step is asking your friend if they would like to hold a virtual memorial/funeral. If they say yes, you can help your grieving friend by making it easy for them by taking the planning off their plate. You can help by:
- Making an itinerary for the event
- Creating all videos/multimedia
- Running a tech rehearsal for speakers
- Creating an invitation for the event
Don’t have the technical expertise to plan an online memorial or want something professional looking? Sincera, a virtual memorial company, can take the planning off your plate and help you create a beautiful virtual service.
Deliver Food/Care Package
Since it may not be safe to dine together in a restaurant, consider delivering a gift – it can be a thoughtful gesture at a safe distance. Delivering flowers can be a wonderful option, but there are also many creative food/care items that you can send to someone who is grieving. Consider sending them one of the following:
- A complete meal (lasagna, stew, etc.)
- Healthy snacks (fruit basket, vegetable tray, etc.)
- Non-perishable treats (packaged crackers, desserts, etc.)
- Cozy items (socks, blankets, etc.)
- A plant (orchid, succulents, etc.)
- Books (something uplifting)
It is important to avoid sending items that could be construed as judgmental or that require planning and work on the part of the grieving. Items to avoid include:
- Self-help books
- Foods that perish the same day (unless pre-arranged)
Reach out regularly
While a single phone call or text message can be very helpful, it is also very helpful to know that friends and family are there for you on an ongoing basis. For close friends consider sending weekly texts to check in and say hello. After the first week or so, feel free to talk about things other than their loss. Consider reaching out by:
- Sharing an interesting article
- Sending them a nice photo
- Inviting them to a virtual game night/book club
- Sending them a letter or post card
There is no perfect way to engage with people experiencing loss, but it is better to say something than nothing. It is extremely important that your loved one knows they have your ongoing support during this difficult time.
Ask how to help and listen
It is very important to listen to your loved one. You are holding space for them so that they can tell you about what they what they need. They may want to talk about their loss, but they may want to talk about anything but their loss. In either case, follow your friend’s lead. Don’t try to fix the situation. You can’t bring back their loved one, but you can help create an environment in which they can grieve in the best way for them.
Encourage them to get professional help
Grief is complicated and there is only so much you can do to help. Make sure that your friend knows that there is no harm in seeking professional help. If there is any chance it would help them process their grief, why not? You can absolutely share coping strategies, but don’t forget that professional help might be needed. Here are some signs that your friend may require professional help:
- Having suicidal thoughts
- Overwhelming survivor’s guilt
- Intense feelings of rage
- Inability to concentrate or sleep normally
- Ongoing or worsening signs of distress (crying, lost appetite, panic attacks, etc.)
- Abusing substances
This is not an exhaustive list of signs that your friend should seek help. Listen to your instincts. If you are worried about them, then consider encouraging them to seek help. Speaking to a professional can help people even if they are already processing grief in a healthy manner. Make sure that your loved one knows that a suggestion that they seek help is not in any way a judgement of them.