The salesclerk who was ringing up my purchase me told me that she had lost her husband, just three months prior. She said that she and her daughter were having a difficult time, as her husband’s death was sudden and unexpected. She also mentioned that she had been forced into cremating her husband, against her and her daughter’s wishes, due to financial reasons.
I left the dress shop worried about the young widow. Over these past few months, I had noticed she had been working more hours than was generally her schedule, and now I realized it was most likely related to her husband’s death. I decided to return to the store the following weekend and check on her.
As it turned out, she was working this weekend, and I asked for a moment of her time to chat together. I asked about her week, her daughter and how her grief recovery was coming along. She reported no improvement and apologized for not visiting my website. I had suspected this would be her response, and so I had brought with me my book, “Mourning Light” to give to her as a gift. Rather than just handing it to her, I opened it and reviewed its contents with her.
With tears in her eyes, she reached out and hugged me. She whispered in my ear that I had done more for her in two minutes than anyone else had done over a space of months. She thanked me, and the embrace was over. I said goodbye, and she returned to work.
There are so many people that we encounter every day who are suffering debilitating grief and yet we are unaware of their pain. Sadly, they do not know where to turn for help, and even when we become aware of their loss, we do not know what to say to help them. It is an uncomfortable situation for both parties.
Today, I offer my best advice to help someone who is suffering loss. It is very simple and will not cost you a dime. My first suggestion is to kindly offer to listen to the survivor talk about their loved one. The best and most productive way for a survivor to recover from a loss is to recount their story. All you need to do as a friend, a co-worker, an acquaintance or a family member is to simply listen. As the survivor recounts their story, they are moving their loved one from a living participant in life to a loving memory. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give a survivor.
Secondly, offer a kind word of encouragement. If you were close to the decedent, the wound of grief may have marked your heart with a deep scar as well. It may be impossible for you to listen to the survivor recount their story without becoming very upset yourself. Perhaps you are a person who is uncomfortable speaking and listening about loss. In this case, a kind word of encouragement is sufficient. “Mary, I was thinking about you today. I hope you know I care for you.” or “Mary, Bob was a wonderful man, we miss him deeply.” Acknowledging the loss and grief the survivor is experiencing helps them to know that although they are incapable of socializing at this time, they have friends who support them, and who will be there once they begin their journey back into society.
Thirdly, pull up the slack. If you know of a woman who has recently been widowed, mowing her lawn for a year is a great gift. If she is a young widow, offering to help out with her children’s schedules is often appreciated. Perhaps if your kids are on the same soccer team, you could offer to drive her children to practice until she is able to safely drive again. If your friend is a man who has lost his dear wife, offering to pick up necessary items at the grocery store or offering to do a load or two of laundry for a time might be very helpful and appreciated as well.
Finally, sometimes the gift of one’s silent presence is enough. Maybe the survivor would like to just enjoy a cup of coffee at the corner shop but feels uncomfortable sitting alone. You might offer to sit with them while they drink their coffee in quiet reflection.
These basic kindnesses will go a long way in helping a survivor get through their grief experience. They do not cost money and are very easy to do if you can just think of them when someone needs them. Please tuck this information away in your wallet or pocketbook for safe keeping and the next time you see someone grieving, pull it out and use it.
Working together, we can make the world a better place for those who mourn.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am the owner and Managing Funeral Director at Queen City Funeral Home in Queen City Texas. I am an author, syndicated columnist, and co-founder of Heaven Sent, Corp. I write books and weekly bereavement articles related to understanding and coping with grief. I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award. I deliver powerful messages and motivate audiences toward positive recovery. It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.
For additional encouragement, read other articles or watch video “Grief Briefs,” please go to my website at www.MourningCoffee.com.