How to offer support
Support offer = (what you can do) + (when)+ (is that ok?)
Offer only what you feel comfortable offering
“Let me know if you need anything” is how we often attempt to offer support.
A grieving person may not have much capacity to consider what they need, and asking for help puts them in a vulnerable position, when they may already feel vulnerable in their grief. Instead of putting the responsibility on the grieving person, think about what you can provide that you will be able to follow through on.
Let them decide
Allow the grieving person some agency. Let them decide what you can do by offering specific options. It can be as simple as:
“Here are some things I would like to offer you, which one sounds good to you right now.”
“Here are some ways I know how to be helpful, do any of those sound good to you right now?”
“I’ve arranged for a lawn care service to come once a month, so if that’s alright, which day is best for you?”
“I’m available to have your kids over to play on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school, would that be helpful for you?”
When you show up for your grieving person, continue to check in with them to be sure what you are doing is helpful, and you're not doing anything that can't be undone.
One thing that's really important to mention here: mundane and ordinary things become precious. so if you're gonna go over and clean the house for somebody or do the laundry be really mindful of not doing anything that can't be fixed.
So, let me explain what that means. If you go over and you see the sort of disarray in the living room and there's an empty coffee cup and you decide you're gonna tidy up and you put all of those dishes in the dishwasher, maybe that coffee cup was left there by mom before she went out and never came home again. If you do the laundry maybe that was the last thing that smells like their person.
So, we don't think about these things because we're not inside that. That doesn't make you wrong, it doesn't make you a terrible person, it's just these mundane and ordinary things that are part of everyday life take on much different significance, much different weight.
So, try not to do something that's irreversible and the best way to prevent making one of those sorts of gaffs that you will feel terrible about is to ask first.
I would love to come and tidy things up. is there anything in this room that you would rather I not touch?
What if they say no?
If they turn you down, that’s ok. Try not to take it personally. Let them know you aren't going anywhere and will try again. It can be as simple as:
- “OK, I'm going to check back in with you next week.” (Then set a reminder so you remember to do it!)
What if they never say yes?
If you have asked several times and they keep refusing, that’s ok, too. Establish that you’re not going to disappear. You can also ask if you should keep asking. Keep it simple:
- “The last several times I have asked if you could use kid care, you have declined. Do you want me to keep asking?”
- Be flexible
- Be specific
- Be humble
- Be consistent