The purpose of a Grief Support Ministry is to provide ways for dealing with grief; to provide support for the process of grief; to provide an environment to meet other people who are grieving and to identify support systems. When we lose a loved one, it may be hard to feel optimistic about the future. If you have lost a spouse, child, family member or friend, you have probably found that there are not many people who understand the deep hurt you feel. The Grief Recovery Support Ministry is a special group of people who have experienced the pain of losing someone and is sensitive to those currently grieving the loss of someone close. The group is made up of people who understand what you are experiencing and want to offer you comfort and encouragement during this difficult time. Sometimes when we lose a loved one, the pain we feel is much worse than we anticipated. When our friends and family seem to have gone on with their lives, we feel alone and lost. Sharing our memories and grief with others can be helpful to us, for as we begin sharing, we receive support and begin healing. If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, whether recent or not we are here to assist.
Here are a few helpful tips to assist:
Listening is the greatest gift you can give someone who is grieving. Ask them to tell you about the person who died. Encourage them to talk about their relationship and their memories. Respond to emotions as they arise, try to be comfortable with tears, and take time to listen.
Accept all feelings:
Expressing emotions is a natural and necessary part of the grief process. Do not pass judgment on how “well” the grieving person is or is not coping. Everyone grieves in their own way, and in their own time.
Many people who are grieving have difficulty imagining they will ever be happy again. Believing in your friend or relative’s ability to get through this time will strengthen them. In time, with your support, they will rediscover their own inner strengths.
Respect individual needs:
Someone who is grieving may want to spend time alone. The person may decline offers to visit or may not return phone calls. These are signals that the person may need to withdraw for a while; it is important to respect their need for privacy.
It is common to feel helpless when you care about the person who is grieving. Although you may be tempted to say something you think might be helpful, it is better to err on the side of listening. Avoid clichés such as: “At least he didn’t suffer,” “I know how you feel,” “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” It is best to be honest and say “I don’t know what to say” or “I’m so sorry.”
Make specific offers of help:
Instead of saying “please call me if I can help,” It is best to offer to help with a specific chore such as caring for a child, preparing a meal, running errands, doing housework, helping with yard work, or shopping. For example, suggest “I’ll bring dinner on Thursday, how many people will be there?” If Thursday doesn’t work, ask what night will. Specific offers of help are less stressful to the grieving person, as the person does not have to spend time thinking of a response to an open ended question such as “What can I do to help you?”
Help the person ease back into activities:
When they seem ready, help the person renew interest in past activities and hobbies or discover new interests. An example is, “Would you like to go to the museum on Saturday to see the new exhibit?” The person may not feel ready to do what you asked, so understand if your offer is declined and ask again after some time has passed.
Remember to check on them as time passes and months go by. Periodic check-ins can be helpful throughout the first two years after the death. Stay in touch by writing a note, calling, stopping by to visit, or perhaps bringing flowers.
Sensitive to holidays and Special days:
For someone grieving a death, certain days may be more difficult and can magnify the sense of loss. Anniversaries and birthdays can be especially hard. Some people find it helpful to be with family and friends, others may wish to avoid traditions and try something different. Extend an invitation to someone who might otherwise spend time alone during a holiday or special day, and recognize they may or may not accept your offer.
Please Note: If you think your friend or family member needs more help than you can offer, talk to him or her about contacting a local hospice. Hospices throughout the country offer grief support to anyone in the community who has had a loss through death, not just to those who they cared for by hospice.
Hospice has bereavement professionals that specialize in grief and loss and can offer further suggestions or sources of support. Hospice can also provide guidance or resources on how to support others who are grieving. To find a hospice in your area, or for more information, visit (www.caringinfo.org.)