How to Help Anyone Who’s Grieving

When 4word: San Antonio leader Christi Griggs unexpectedly lost her father, she quickly learned that how she had been helping others through grief in the past may not have been as helpful as she thought. Read her advice for comforting others in times of grief below.

It has been a month since I lost my Dad. It was an unexpected loss and one we couldn’t have prepared for. Of great health and sound mind for a 79-year-old with lots of life left in him, we were all unsuspecting. He was still winning races he competed in, of which he just did over Father’s Day weekend. 

I left my parent’s house on Monday, August 19, after my usual Monday morning coffee with them, a ritual we started about two years ago. You see, my parents live just around the corner but even with that close proximity, we rarely see each other. Focused on our kids, jobs, projects, etc., my family and I are seldom home before 8:00 or 9:00 in the evening. Not ones to attend all kid events, of fairly private lives, studious and non-meddlesome, my parents didn’t come over unsolicited except to let our dogs touch noses in a friendly pass while walking their “new” kid in the family, Bailey, their Yorkie. 

That Monday morning, I looked at my watch and realized my work day needed to start with my first conference call. I stopped my dad in the midst of one of his reminiscing stories of his childhood, hugged him goodbye while still seated, and walked out with my Mom as we snickered a little at Dad’s habit of not engaging in conversation until someone was on the verge of needing to run out the door. As I took my first step out of the door, he stated, “Now don’t forget,” which was his way of telling us he loves us. That was the last I saw or talked to him. He left on a trip to visit a friend that week and on Friday, August 23, while seated at my son’s football game, I received the first call leading to the heartbreaking loss of my Dad.

This month’s topic is grief. I want to write specifically on grief due to the loss of a parent. Even though I am in the infancy of this process, a few things stand out through the events and emotions over the last month. I am not certain I can tell you how to cope yet as that process is just starting for me. The perspective I want to take is how to help someone else experiencing this kind of grief. 

I don’t want to stop hurting immediately, because that means the situation is easier and this early, I don’t want it to be easier. I just miss my Dad and want him back. I am still in just “Stage 1” of my grieving, but because of the support we have received, I am convicted about how I haven’t helped others grieving in the past. Having gone through what I have, I know I will approach comforting others so differently now.

I don’t really have any “not to do’s,” but I do have “to do’s” to share with you. The love and support we have received and are receiving is so uplifting and comforting in the way we can be comforted at this stage. If you want to be a comfort to someone in your life, here is what I would suggest you do:

1. Make the call.  I tend to focus on how devastating someone’s loss may be and think they won’t want to hear from me because they have bigger concerns. WRONG. Make the call. Every phone call received meant the world to us. The call from a life-long friend, the next-door neighbor, the waitress at the neighborhood restaurant, or the high school friend whose life was impacted by a word or act performed by my dad. Every call was appreciated.

2. Send the text, Facebook post, comment, etc. The first few days are spent with endless tasks of phone calls notifying people, gathering photos, trying to share the essence of the person you lost by honoring them the best you can, planning the service (services in our case), and trying to piece together the details of the loss you just suffered. Although the ability to acknowledge all of those that send messages isn’t immediate, the ability to scroll and read that someone knows your pain, shared a memory and offers their support truly lifted us up during the process. EACH AND EVERY ONE.

3.  Send the card or flowers. I am still receiving cards and flowers. It is never too late to send your thoughts of condolence. I won’t say the thought today is more meaningful than the thought the day after but when things are quiet, the world is back to its normal business as usual routine, and you have this void that you will have the rest of your life, it is comforting to know someone is still acknowledging your loss.

4.  Ask how they are. If at a social gathering, a business event, a meeting, a lunch, or whatever the environment may be, don’t assume they don’t want to talk about their loss or grief. The response to your inquiry may be short so not to evoke emotion, but your acknowledgement of what they’re going through is much appreciated. 

5. Share the memory. Any memory. Over the past month, I’ve learned so many things about my Dad and his impact on others or a shenanigan that I will hold on forever. If someone in conversation references a memory, listen. It is meaningful to them to share.

I’d like to leave you with two verses that have meant so much to me the past month.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. He saves those whose spirits have been crushed”.

Psalm 34:18

“He heals the brokenhearted. He bandages their wounds.”

Psalm 147:3