When A Question Isn’t Enough To Help Someone Grieve

When A Question Isn’t Enough To Help Someone Grieve

Grief is a feeling my whole being approaches with empathy, but my actions don’t always reflect my heart. I lay awake at night with stories of loss and disappointment I had heard from friends or read online. They all play on repeat through my mind. They get stuck in my head like reruns of TV shows I’ve seen a dozen times. My heart reminds me I must respond to the grief at least with words of comfort and healing, but that’s where I get stuck.

What response could diminish even an ounce of the pain? And if I can’t take away the heartache, what’s the point?

So I reach into my pocketbook of cliches and send a text or email saying, “What can I do for you?”

Do you ever find yourself asking that question because you have no idea how to heal the grief in front of you?

My mind justifies the interaction because the question shows my heart cares, but the lack of action to follow leaves this question dangling high and dry. Not only is my grieving friend or family member stuck in a storm of misunderstood feelings and emotions that have a depth unknown to even them, but I’m also asking her to tell me what I need to do to help her feel better. I require too much direction before I act.

The question: “What can I do for you?” is formed from a mixture of the self-doubt I feel from my abilities to change her circumstances and the shame I feel from not being able to understand fully.

I’ve been contemplating how I can serve others in a more direct and impactful way. One thing I started recently is sending thoughtful care packages. Who doesn’t enjoy reading her name across a brown box with contents that encourage her to take care of herself during a trying time? I also have tried to upgrade the letters I send from kind words to also include a gift card (when appropriate) or a handwritten quote to hang on the fridge as a reminder of her worth and hope she can find in her Maker.

I recently asked you all what you do to pull your friends close and hold them up when it’s too hard to stand. I was in awe of how this community actively supports one another. I wanted to share with you all a few tips I received that I think we could all implement to help those we love during difficult times.

1. Don’t put a timeline on grief. Be there for however long it takes.

2. If there is a time of year that is harder than others, show up! Don’t let that time come and go without the needed acknowledgment. 

3. Don’t pity. Instead, validate! 

4. Settle in to listen. Advice isn’t always needed, and silence is okay.

5. Act without being asked. Bring over a meal, babysit, or clean the home. Acts of unexpected service goes a long way!

6. Show support through touch — offer a hug or hold a hand. This shows you are willing to grieve alongside your loved one.

7. Create a safe place for your loved one to be angry, sad, scared, or unsure. Any and every emotion is okay during this time.

I’m thankful for those who helped me by taking the time to share what you have done for your friends or what they have done for you! We all can learn from each other, and I hope to continue to share your advice. It’s beautiful!


Amanda is a wife, mother, writer/editor, and certified life coach. Pen and paper make her spirit come alive. She spends her creative time reading, decorating, and handwriting fonts. Her world is better with an assortment of chocolate and a packed bag ready for travel. She works each day to be a creative maker, storyteller, and dream-chaser.

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