The other day I ran down a list of don’ts for support staff. Now let’s talk the do’s. Whether you are a day or two supporter or a long hauler the standards remain the same. Think before you say or do and you will most likely be successful in your roll as support staff.
Hug me. Even if the person grieving says they are not a hugger, odds are it is still something they need. Everyone needs physical contact from another caring human being. I went from having the love of a hug everyday to isolation of daily life without Mike. I asked everyone I knew to hug me every chance they got!!
Be patient with me. I am not myself nor can I think clearly. I may seem unreasonable at times or extremely moody, wouldn’t you be?? If I am short with you please don’t take it personally, life is very frustrating for me right now. As a member of my support team I will rely on you to love me no matter how I react to you. We tend to take our frustrations out on the ones we love the most because we know you will be forgiving.
Ask me how I am. I know this is on the list of don’ts too but if you truly care and are prepared to hear the cold hard truth then it’s good to ask me how I really am. You know me well enough to know if I am giving you lip service or if I am being honest.
Check in with me often, preferably in person. A quick text is fine but how much emotion can you really get from a text? If that’s all you have time for today it’s okay. A phone call is better, you can hear in my voice what state of mind I am in. The best solution is to come see me in person. I will probably tell you that’s not necessary, that I am fine. If you are a close friend you can ignore me and come anyway, in fact I will probably be very grateful. If you want to call me and tell me you are coming, that’s good too. Notice I didn’t say to call and ASK if you can come. Sometimes it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.
Invite me to go places. Don’t be surprised or offended if I tell you no for a while but right now I need to be needed. I need to know that people want me around even though I am sad. I need to know that people want me around even if I am not my usual happy self. I needed people to invite me to gatherings they would have invited US to before. I am no longer an US which is why it is so important that my support staff still needs me.
Make me do something. Get me out of the house. I won’t want to be in public for a while, but we could do a drive thru and have lunch in a park. Pack a picnic and sit by a lake. Drive me to your house of he house of a friend to sit on the deck and drink wine (bring tissues, alcohol can bring out the ugliest side of my grief). Anything to get me out of the house for a bit. Fresh air can help clear the fog even if it’s temporary.
Make sure I am eating, bathing and taking care of myself physically. These may seem like simple tasks but to me these things really don’t matter. My life is a mess right now so my physical appearance is low on my list of priorities. Bring me a favorite meal and enjoy it with me. I love to cook but cooking for someone is a way of expressing my love for them. When that person is no longer here there’s no joy it. Cooking for just myself was a reminder that I am now a party of one.
Encourage me to talk then let me speak. I know your instinct is to tell me not to be sad and not to cry but I need to express my grief. I need talk about my person and what I am feeling. It’s not easy hearing how broken I am but being able to express it to someone is a necessary part of my process.
Encourage me to find support. You may be the best friend a person could have but you may not be equipped to deal with my grief. It is always a good idea to seek out the support of people who have walked in shoes similar to my own. It can be a support group of others grieving or it could be a professional therapist. You know me well, you can tell if I am spiraling downward. Don’t be afraid to tell me I need help. My proud self may not do anything with the offer, you may need to push me a little but it may be the one thing that will save me from myself.
I will probably not ask you for help, I don’t know how to ask and even if I did I wouldn’t. I don’t want to be a bother to anyone. I want to be the strong capable person I was before grief invaded my life. I am honestly usure how to be either of those things but I am going to try.
Do things for me. Again, I won’t ask but I do need help with a lot of things. Please feel free to just DO things you think might help. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, small things are as important.
I need something to do that will keep me from thinking too much, something to get my mind off of my grief for a period of time. I had a friend who brought me some adult coloring books and some crayons. At first I thought this was an odd gift but it actually worked to occupy my mind for short periods of time, gave me a little relief. Be creative and find something you can off that will occupy my brain for a bit.
Give me time. Time is the only friend I have right now. The passing of time will soften things and make this grief more tolerable. Let me have as much time as I need, I am doing this the only way I know how and with your help I will come out the other side reasonably intact. I can’t tell you when that will happen but I am hopeful it will.