Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I don't know what to say. How can I help?

Life has its ups and downs.  Today I heard a friend's husband suddenly passed away.
My heart goes out to her.  What a shock!  He showed no visible signs.  After dinner he went to his den to read as she washed the dinner dishes.  She heard a thump, ran to him but it was too late.  He succumed to a heart attack (as my husband did several years ago).  There was nothing anyone could do.

She lost her best friend, the father of her children, her dreams for a golden retirement, her golfing buddy and her money manager.

If she's a good friend you want to console her.  You want to ease her pain and be helpful, but how?

First off be sensitive.  Be careful of what you say - "it's for the best", "he's in a better place", does not help.

Acknowledge her loss - "I am sorry for your loss.  We all will miss George."  "Don't be afraid to cry."

Recognize her pain and do not encourage her to keep busy. Say " you must feel this pain will never end."   Be willing to sit, have coffee and reminisce or just be there.  Listen, listen, listen.  Talk only if she wants.  Silence can be golden.

Be specific when you offer to help - "I'll pick up your sister at the airport. What time is her flight";  "I'll go food shopping for you Thursday.  I'll buy the basics to hold you for a few days.; "Let me walk your dog for the next week."  "I can go to the bank (lawyer, court) with you."

Give her plenty of time before expecting her to be/act normal.  Just because she gets up, dresses and looks okay, does not mean she is operating on all cylinders.  Her pain is physical and emotional.  She is in shock.  Her head is stuffed with wool and she is not thinking clearly.  Decisions should be small ones, nothing major.

Grieving is a process, a series of small steps.  Sometimes she will take two steps forward and three back.  It is very individual and there is no time table.

Don't act as if nothing has changed.  A touch, a hand squeeze, a direct look in the eye is better than an empty comment at any time.
Don't avoid her.  This is when she needs a true friend.
We never know when one of us will face the loss of a loved one.