Friday, September 27, 2013

What to do for someone who is grieving...

The chill in the air is a reminder that summer is over.
 Fall is at my doorstep. 

October is one of my favorite months but this year there is another bitter feel to it. 

My sweet niece Ivory was supposed to make her way to this world late October. Instead, she was born 11 weeks early. What a fighter as she hung in there for several days. But Ivory has bigger and better things in store for her and passed away.

 I had the privilege of snapping some photos of her after she had passed. 
It was an honor. 
I can't wait to meet that little angel one day!

In honor of that little angel- I decided to do my next How Does She post on ways to help those who are grieving. 

It really has opened my mind on how it is way better to send something like a little card or something then waiting for them to ask for help. Most likely they won't.

Here is question number one and just a few of the responses:

What acts of actions, comments, or gifts stand out to you as being most helpful to you?

“When my 13 year old son was killed, I felt so all alone in my grief. It’s been 16 years, and what I remember as making the biggest impact on my healing, was those friends that were not afraid to see and hear my grief. I had two friends that called me everyday for months, one who sent me a card once a week for the entire first year. They didn’t get their feelings hurt if I did not answer the phone, or immediately acknowledge their cards. I had friends drive out to my house and bring lunch, and then sit with me. It didn’t matter if I ate the food, the important part was their presence. These contacts were a lifeline for me. My advice to others would be to NOT wait for an invitation, it won’t come. Just be there. Listen. Don’t try to make IT better. You can’t. Don’t give up on us when we seem so far away that you can’t see the old person that you knew. We’re still there; we’ve just been broken open, and we’re trying desperately to make sense of a senseless and often cruel world.”

“People just doing something, anything, meant a lot. It didn't matter how big or small their act of kindness was. I don't like saying that, because I didn't 'expect' people to do anything, but it sure helped me. Even a card sending their love meant a lot to me. It showed that people cared and were grieving with us. I was amazed when we received things, or emails, from people we didn't know or were only acquaintances with. It made me realize that if you have the thought to do something, do it. Don't hold back thinking the person might think you're weird.

Things that helped me the most were:
-listeners: I could talk to anyone and everyone about my story. It helped me sort my thoughts out and it was my way of dealing with it. I wasn't expecting answers, or for people to know what to say, it just made me feel better to talk about it. I hated shooting the breeze with people who knew exactly what was going on.. but they thought it would be better for me to not talk about it. It made things awkward and uncomfortable for me.
-thoughtful gifts: I know this isn't easy for everyone. It's actually probably the hardest thing to do because you don't know what they need. The grieving book and massages are the gifts that I loved the most. They were things to help me long term, not just temporarily. People gave us plants and trees to plant that would be a constant reminder. I loved that. I also loved that you kept me in mind, even after a month had past, because I'm still dealing with the situation although the world has moved on. I feel like I'm transitioning into a hard phase because I'm dealing with it more on my own now.
-books: I got some books about losing children that have really helped me cope and understand. This is obviously something that would help according to the situation.
-dinners: Wasn't in the mood to cook.
-groceries: Wasn't in the mood to grocery shop.
-yard work: Wasn't in the mood to do yard work, and you have a lot of people coming in and out.
-cleaning the house: I can see this being awkward for people, but it's so helpful. Especially after having a c-section or a newborn in the house.
-jewelry. I got some jewelry that I don't think I'll ever take off. They're constant reminders that I can keep with me at all times.

I enjoyed getting gifts. I feel guilty admitting that. Like I said, I didn't expect anything, but it brought a little light everyday to receive a little something from someone. Someone even brought me flowers picked from their yard. They don't have to be big or expensive things. It's the thought that counts. My friends brought me a "care package." It had a gift card to a spa, bath salts, letters from all of them, a candle, and chocolate. It has gotten a lot of use.

If they have kids, offer to take them for awhile so the griever has some alone time to be with their feelings. The times I was alone, were the times that I was able to truly deal with my emotions. I could yell, cry, make an ugly face, fall to my knees, and do whatever I needed to do when I needed to do it.”

“Meals brought to me was always helpful. It was something I didn't think about ahead of time and was nice to have it ready for my family. Also friends/family taking the kids for a few hours was a huge help. My mom came and cleaned my house. Which was huge. in the moment my house is something that gets put on the back burner.”

"People who showed concern or kindness, by a phone call or card or meal....was always comforting.  It was nice to know people cared and were there for me.  I didn't feel alone through my emotions.  It was also nice to hear people tell me their similar experiences which helped me know they could relate to the feelings I was going through. "

“There are many things that stand out to me in this category and my answer will probably be somewhat disjointed.  I'm just going to write as thoughts come to me.  Sorry! : )  The things that stand out to me most are service, thoughts, prayers, love etc.  We were so grateful for every meal brought into us to help feed family and friends that came to support us, the funeral luncheons that were put on for our boys, monetary donations to help with the funeral costs,  and flowers and cards that were sent.  When A died, I loved opening my mailbox each day and  finding it overflowing with cards from people that  just wanted to let us know they were thinking about us.  What was written in the card didn't matter.  It didn't have to be filled with long, eloquent thoughts or the 'perfect words'.  Just the fact that they sent a card with their condolences meant the world to me and I still have every single card. After T died, we received hundreds of facebook messages and emails.  I couldn't even keep up with them, but they were so appreciated.  I loved knowing that people were thinking of us and aware of what I was going through.  The prayers people offered on our behalf were also definitely felt in our hearts and our home.
Another thing that stands out to me was help with child care after A died.  Our sweet bishop and his wife offered to take Z while we were at the funeral home so we could just focus on making decisions for A.  Another sweet ward member offered to take care of Z during A funeral so we wouldn't have to leave if he started getting antsy and fussy.  It was so helpful and I'm so grateful I could just focus on my grief for Andrew and not have to worry about taking care of Z for a little bit.
After T died, we had people offer to do whatever they could to help us.  We were in the middle of moving, but the Mexican police would not allow us to leave the country.  This made it difficult as our cars were sold, our apartment turned back over to the landlord and all of our stuff was on it's way back to the United States.  Without hesitating, we had friends offer us their home to stay in.  They fed us and loved us, (and let us borrow things like clothes!) without requesting anything in return.  One of my husband's co-workers let us use his car as long as we needed with no questions asked. 
I guess the point of this rambling (sorry) is to just look at the situation and figure out what people need and then jump in and do it.  Whether they need meals, child care, a hug, colorful flowers, a card, prayers, chocolate, or something completely different, doing or saying something is always better than doing or saying nothing. Just let people know you are aware of them.
One final thought on this and then I will move onto number 2.  It is very easy to do all of this right away when something happens to someone you know.  Our instinct it to help immediately which is very helpful, however, once people have helped you once, they tend to move onto the next big thing happening in their lives.  It was very hard for me to move on after such a big loss.  It takes a lot of time and emotion to adjust to your 'new normal'.  I will forever remember a day about six weeks after Andrew had died.  All of the flowers were gone and cards had stopped coming, but I was still having a hard time and was still grieving.  A knock sounded at my door and it was a beautiful flower arrangement being delivered to us from our bishop and his wife.  They wanted us to know they were still thinking about us and still aware of our loss.  I burst into tears to know that someone hadn't forgotten me.  I now try and do this to all I meet who are going through a trial.  Just because the funeral (or diagnosis, or whatever else) is done and over with doesn't mean that the person it happened to has moved on.  Their world has been turned upside down and that takes a long time to put back together.  It is nice to help right when things are happening, but, equally nice to know that you are still being thought of later on. I'll stop now and move onto number 2! : )”


1 comment:

  1. love it cristi. i can't wait to see your finished post on HDS. thank you so much for doing this :)