Mistakes will happen
You are probably going to mess this up. It’s ok. We all mess up.
Supporting someone you care about is a continuous work in progress - it’s not once and done. Even with the best intentions, you might accidentally say or do something that hurts them. Respect that they might need space from you, but don’t give up on yourself or your grieving person. The worst thing you can do is disappear.
You’re going to say the wrong thing. So what do you do? I think you own it.
I talk about how we show up for ourselves and each other for a living. I literally do it every single day. And I say incredibly dumb, insensitive things occasionally.
So, it’s not that you learn this once and you’re done. This is a rolling work in progress. You are going to screw it up. I screw it up.
The thing to remember here is that all of that is a work in progress and if you catch yourself doing something like, “Oh that was terrible, that was so cringeworthy.” Name it. It’s ok to own that and be like, “I can’t believe I just said that to you. I feel like such a jerk for saying that.” That’s OK.
But . . . I don’t want to make it worse
Just the fact that you are reading this shows that you are an awesome and curious person who understands that approaching people in grief can be really delicate. If you root your intention into truly supporting your person, it is unlikely that you will make things worse. If you want to help, sit with them in their pain. (This often requires you to deal with some of your own grief, and that may be uncomfortable.)
But . . . I don’t want to remind them about it
We will never be reminding a grieving person of their loss. Instead, we’ll be reminding them that we have not forgotten their loss. Grievers typically are always thinking about their loved one. Reach out to show your support, you'll be reminding them how much you care.
But . . . I always say the wrong thing
You don’t have to say anything at all. Resist the urge to fill the silence. It’s awkward, we know, but you can do it. Your relationship with the person you are supporting is worth the awkward silence. Just showing up to listen is an enormous gift.
Try not to take it personally
If they a griever refuses what you are offering, that’s ok. Prepare yourself for the reality that what you are offering might not be helpful right now. There might already be too many casseroles in the freezer - it's not a dig on your cooking.
If a griever does not respond to you right away, they might just need some time until they are ready. Ask if it’s ok for you to keep checking in.