My best friend’s child just died in a car accident. My friend is in shock. She is angry with the world. What do I say? What can I do to help her?
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, over 200,000 people suffered accidental deaths in 2020. WOW!!! Death and grief are everywhere. From accidental deaths to Covid deaths to shootings and more.
Almost everyone will grieve at some time, yet most of us feel awkward and uncomfortable around others who are grieving. What should we do or say that will help them soothe the pain of their grief? How do we “reach out” to help a friend or family member who is grieving the death of a loved one?
In 2003, I was that griever after my mother and my two daughters, Jenelle-age 19, and Amy-age 9, were killed by a distracted semi-truck driver. He was speeding and reading when he instantly killed them. We were devastated and needed help, just to survive. I pro-actively reached out to bereavement groups, church affiliations, and counselors to no avail.
They all offered advice and ideas, but I needed something else. I needed practical advice, not book-learned advice, from someone who had suffered a loss like I had. Since that time, I have become more connected with grievers and have learned there are better ways to help including:
- Try to show more empathy by fully understanding the grieving process. Everybody grieves differently. Grief is both personal and individual. After Jenelle and Amy were killed, I was a basket case—crying non-stop and always angry. My wife, Char, didn’t shed a tear for about six months. She couldn’t accept their death and kept thinking they would simply show up someday. This difference in grieving caused tremendous stress in our lives.
- Be pro-active—Most of us say “call me if you need anything” to a griever. If the griever never called you before their loss to ask you to help them clean the house, mow the yard, or go to the grocery store for them, they will not ask you now either. Be pro-active. If you see something that needs to be done to help, just do it.
- Be smart and focused on what you say. Our society places too much value on “getting on with your life”. We say canned phrases such as “they are in a better place now” or “I know how you feel”. First, the griever thought their loved one was in a pretty good place with them here on earth. Secondly, nobody can feel the same loss as the person who suffered it. I had a guy tell me, “I know how you feel. My dog died last month”.
- Proactively talk about the deceased person. Tell stories. Share pictures and memories. Most grievers worry that people will forget their loved one. Make sure that doesn’t happen with your friend. If you are scared or nervous about sharing a story or a memory, ask them if it is OK first.
- Make regular, frequent, and personal contact. Stay away from the text messages and emails. If you really want to support your friend, go see them or at least call them. That personal touch is so important.
- Just Be There. You can’t FIX GRIEF. If you feel the need to do or say something, try “I am here for you and your family” or “I am here to listen to you if you need or want to talk” or “It is OK if you feel the need to be mad or express anger in front of me. I am your friend”.
Randy Stocker is the survivor of an unfathomable tragedy with the deaths of three family members to a distracted semi-truck driver. Instead of wallowing in his grief, he took the path to learn about grief and grieving so he could help others. Stocker is the author of the book, “Hugs Help-Our Story of Tragic Loss, Survival, and Helping Others.” He is also a sought after professional speaker, an organizer of multiple bereavement groups, and a great listener to others who have suffered tragic loss. He runs a Facebook Group on grief and grieving. For more information visit www.randystocker.com.
Randy Stocker is the survivor of an unfathomable tragedy with the deaths of three family members to a distracted semi-truck driver. Instead of wallowing in his grief, he took the path to learn about grief and grieving so he could help others. Stocker is the author of the book, “Hugs Help-Our Story of Tragic Loss, Surviva...
View Full Profile