Death is uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable for all of us which is the reason why we sometimes back away from it when it enters our lives. When friends or family lose a loved one, we find ourselves making excuses and justifying our actions by saying that the grieving person needs space and do not need us. In actuality, it is quite the opposite, and it is our fear that drives us away. When a death occurs, your friends and family need you to be there; it is when they need you the most, and stepping back rather than stepping forward can be hurtful and disappointing to them.
It is especially challenging when the person who has lost someone is not necessarily a close relative or friend but rather a colleague or acquaintance in your community. You feel that you are not in their inner circle and should therefore stand back and not ‘bother’ them. Don’t let your inner voice convince you that you are not close enough. In these cases, it is just the opposite. Extending yourself in these situations will go a long way in supporting that person and is just as important. Find out how their culture observes the mourning process. You can send a meal, flowers, make a memorial donation or send a sympathy card. There are many meaningful gestures you can do that will show them your support during this difficult time.
The most important thing to do is accept that you are in an uncomfortable place and become comfortable in the discomfort. Ultimately, it is about putting yourself out there. And mostly recognizing that this is not about you, it is about the person you care about. It is never too late to express your condolences. It is normal to procrastinate, but it is more important to still reach out to let others know you are thinking of them – even if time has passed.
We all know that our actions can often speak louder than words. In this case, it is no different. The best way to get comfortable is to focus on what you can ‘do’ to stand beside them in their grief. There are things that the person grieving will need. It is important though not to ask them what they need. They will naturally say there is nothing they need. Instead, make suggestions. It can be a small gesture or a larger one: picking them up a coffee, fixing their computer, picking up their kids from school, doing their laundry, taking out the garbage. Be specific in your offers. Don’t make them have to think of what they need help with. This will help them, but it will also help you as it takes the pressure off and will make you more comfortable in the discomfort. Be brave. This is the time to stand beside those you care about, not on the sidelines.