I’m Sorry is Awkward

And 4 other things to know when someone you love experiences the death of a loved one.

 

There’s no doubt about it that the death of a loved one is and will be one of the toughest times of our lives.  

Yet, many of us, have no idea of what to say or how to help when someone we care about losses a loved one. 

 

Let’s be honest, we’d actually all like to avoid the topic of death altogether ~ right?

 

But as the great Ben Franklin said, one of THE certain things in life is exactly that.  Death.  We can’t avoid it, so how can we show up to the people around us that have experienced it.  It’s not easy but I have learned that acknowledging the reality of it can actually help us all live more fully, with a greater sense of awareness, gratitude and ultimately joy in our own lives.  So next time someone close to you loses a loved one, here are some tips that can help you show up

 

Some things you should know:

 

  1. Grief changes us – and affects everyone differently.  Don’t try to “fix” anything, just show up and listen. 
  2. Your friend or family member may be uncomfortable asking for help.  How many times have you had someone tell you to “let me know if you need help”.  Have you ever ACTUALLY come back to them?  Rarely.  If you’re wanting to offer help, consider offering specifics….Can I bring you food on Sunday?  Can I gather up your family photos or something else to help with the memorial?  Or, I’m running to Target this week, do you need anything? 
  3. The house gets deafeningly silent ~ As Jamie Sarche mentions in her video, keep in touch.  I would add, keep in touch long after the family goes home.  After the memorial, the calls and the cards soon stop, and everyone returns to their own busy schedule…but your friend or family member will still be grieving.  Calls, texts, invitations to an evening out or a small unexpected gift in the mail can go a long way when they are adjusting to a life without their loved one. 
  4. Settling the finances (the estate) can be (and usually IS) a BEAR….even for a well organized person.  Often times the person charged with this task has no idea what needs to be done and more importantly where to begin.  They may need recommendations of trusted professionals that include a tax professional, an estate attorney and financial advisor.  Depending on what roles the deceased person may have had around the house, your friend/family member may also need a reputable person to have on hand for things like home repairs, and yard maintenance too.  Because “I have no idea where to start”  is one of the first comments I hear, I’ve created a Survivor’s Checklist that can help get someone started.   See attached for a copy that you can share. 
  5. And finally, saying “I’m sorry” (at the funeral or otherwise),  can actually make your friend/family member feel more awkward than anything.  It really bothered me when someone said “I’m sorry” after my mom died.  Saying “I’m sorry” implies some sort of wrong doing.  You (probably) aren’t responsible for the death of their loved one and by saying “I’m Sorry”, you may be unknowingly prompting your grieving friend to feel pressed to comfort you! Try instead, something like “I can’t imagine what this is like for you, would you like to tell me about it?” or “You’re in my thoughts and prayers, I’d like to be here for you” or “John was such an amazing person, he will be missed”.