Walking Alongside Grief…. Reaching Out to a Grieving Heart
On November 21st, the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association acknowledges National Grief and Bereavement Day 2023. It is a day to take action, be present and support those around you who are on a grief journey.
Grief is the natural and normal response human beings have to loss, especially when someone significant dies (also referred to as bereavement). Grief is complex and can have significant impacts on all aspects of self, including physical, emotional, behavioral, intellectual and spiritual reactions. Grief does not follow a predicable timeline and every person grieves in their own unique way.
Despite the fact that grief is a universal human experience, we often don’t know how to respond when someone we love is grieving. It is difficult to bear witness to the intense feelings, thoughts and behaviors that accompany grief. In society, talking about death or grief is taboo and this can leave us feeling uncomfortable, never knowing quite what to say or uncertain about how we can be helpful.
But here’s the truth – we all have the power to make sure that people do not face their grief journey alone. For many reasons, grief can be a deeply isolating and lonely experience. Reaching out with simple gestures of kindness can make a profound impact and let the grieving person know they are not alone in navigating grief and loss.
A good place to start is understanding that grief is an important healing process, one that cannot be rushed or fixed. As a support person, it is not your job to fix the grief, but rather to walk alongside it and offer acknowledgement, compassion and support. Even when it feels like there is nothing you can say to make things better; your actions can speak volumes and provide solace to a grieving heart.
Some small, but impactful ideas, to support a grieving person:
- Just reach out.
- Show up and listen, listen, listen.
- Bring food that is ready to eat, or easy to prepare.
- Offer concrete help (mow the lawn, do laundry, grocery shop, take out garbage)
- Ask about the person who died or share a favorite memory/photo
- Avoid platitudes or clichés
- Send a card or care package (grief journal, art supplies or book)
- Go for a walk together
- Offer to help sort though or pack up the loved one’s belongings
- Invite them to social events (and be accepting if they decline)
- Arrange to babysit or take children to activities
- Offer to attend a grief support group with them
- Acknowledge important dates, such as the holidays or death anniversaries
- Keep checking in regularly
- Expand your own knowledge about grief (www.mygrief.ca or www.kidsgrief.ca )
While grief is a lonely journey, it is one that we needn’t walk alone. Every member of a compassionate community can reach out with small acts of kindness and connection. There are also community resources to help grievers connect with others who are experiencing a similar circumstance. The Palliative Care Program offers a listing of grief supports available in Prairie Mountain Health. To access the available supports please visit our website.