Flowers alone are often not enough when sending your thoughts to someone ill or grieving. While a popular and lovely gift, they rarely convey the comfort we’d like to offer when someone we care for is hurt, sick, or suffering. Additionally, they require immediate attention, and if there’s one truth about grief, it’s that it takes time.
In the state of grieving or illness, having to care for things like plants and cut flowers right away can be a difficult task. In fact, caring for one’s own well being in these times is typically challenging. Sleep is difficult to find, thoughts become scattered, self care takes a back seat, and survival mechanisms go into auto pilot. When grieving, the risk for illness increases due to stress.
Here is an opportunity to send your thoughts as a gentle reminder that self compassion/self care is needed and healthy. Give them the social acceptance they may need to permit themselves to take a break mentally and physically....on their own time. Maybe it won’t be the day they receive it, or even that week, but this gift will be there waiting, when they are ready.
Here are some tips on how to truly be supportive during tough times:
Five Really Helpful Things You Can Do/Say if Someone You Know Is Grieving:
1.Ask, “How are you doing?” Then listen with your heart to the answer without changing the subject or terminating the conversation through one of the statements above. Create a space for them to talk about their experience if they would like to. You might feel honored that they trusted you enough to give an honest answer if it’s something other than “Fine.”
2.Say that you just found out about the loss from them. Rather than the obligatory “I’m sorry for your loss,” or “I’m sorry that your marriage didn’t work out for you,” try this instead: “I can’t imagine what this is like for you,” followed by “How are you doing?” Everyone’s grief is different. Even if you’ve experienced loss, you really don’t know how they feel. Let them tell you about it in their own words.
3.“I’d like to help. Would you like me to __________?” Insert specific tasks that you are willing to do that you think might be helpful like “mow the lawn, walk the dog, watch the baby, sit with you, help you clear the garage,” etc. Then show up and do it if the answer is “Yes.” Try to avoid the non-comittal, “Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.” No one believes you really mean it.
4.When someone cries in front of you, all you have to do is stay put and say something in a soothing voice like, “It’s OK….let that out….I’m here for you.” Comforting them with a touch on the arm or a hug is great too. Just do your best to stay present and don’t try to “fix” it. Don’t hand them a tissue unless they ask for it. The tears will come to a natural completion of their own accord.
5.Do your best to keep your relationship intact. Avoiding a grieving person because it’s uncomfortable for you to be with them is really hard for them. You can imagine the feelings of isolation they would be feeling if everyone in their lives reacted this way. It’s OK to say the name of the person that is gone. It’s OK to ask what happened. It’s OK to talk about the strangeness of it all. It’s even OK to cry in front of them or with them. Your silence and avoidance is what could make it truly painful for the griever.
People experiencing grief need to be heard, seen, understood, felt. They need to know that they aren’t alone. Know that your love and empathy will go a long way towards supporting a grieving person in their deepest time of need. Know that they would do it for you, too.