These notes are "rough", so here you go. I hope you find a thing or two that can help. Thanks for taking a look, Tom
Amy Florian has taught me some helpful things about people going through tremendous grief. Amy is a “Thanatologist” which is the highest level of certification in grief studies. She lost her husband at 25, and has studied how to help people suffering ever since. Her story and expertise are significant.
Here we go:
Don't say “I'm sorry” when you find out. “I'm so sorry” is a conversation stopper. It gets tiring, and there is nothing to say after that but thank you.
All open ended questions, what happened, how did you find out, then what happened, who are you with now?
If they say they are busy “what can I take off your plate?”
There are almost five times more widows than widowers in the US. Women dramatically outlive men.
Men and women do not grieve differently
There are instead two styles of grieving:
Intuitive: More likely with men - more focused on what they can do privately to treat grief. More head than heart.
Instrumental: More heart than head. More likely to be in grief support groups, they want lots of support around them.
Amy’s favorite question "What do you wish people knew about what you are going through?"
Never say “I can't imagine what you are going through” It's not true and drives people away, what we are really saying is I don't want to imagine what you are going through.
How do wish people would act around you right now?
"I wish people would quit bringing me food" is very common, instead do it on the anniversary of the death, wedding anniversary, birthdays, etc. instead. They don't want to be alone on a day like this. You are not going to “make them cry” by recognizing it; the tears are there already even if not on the surface.
Evenings and weekends are really tough for widows and widowers because that's when they would have been together. Once a year events are harder for longer because we don't get to practice them as often.
Don't hand a crying person tissues. This takes them out of control (and they already probably feel out of control) by not letting them cry, infers stop it, you are making me uncomfortable. In support groups, they call Kleenex the “shut up box.” Keep Kleenex wherever people might be so they can grab some if they want.
Crying and letting grief out is the only way to heal. Holding grief in is unhealthy, that why they say good strong cry.
Crying also helps reduce stress.
Say "You can cry anytime, no apologies necessary."
Every grieving person wants to know their loved one made a difference
NEVER SAY "Time heals all wounds" not true, and if they believe time will then they might repress and not work on the grief.
Don't feel guilty when feeling moments of joy while briefing they are brief splashes of color on the palette of gray. Then eventually the image reverses, and the grief is the gray splotches on the color palette of life.
When people say, they are “FINE.”
-Exhausted - standard answer even when struggling, ask them to tell you more
Instead of “how are you?“ - What kind of a day is it for you today? Is this an up day, down day, or all over the place day? What has been happening in your life?
Look at her books a “friend in deed,” “priority actions,” “compassionate communications“ on Amazon
People remember the stories that were told not the “I'm sorrys,” talk about the good times
The grief process actually is a lot longer and more complicated than the dying process
The five stages of grief or “DABDA” is not great, but was a good start on grief healing from the 1960's. People don't have the linearly ordered experiences or even have all the components. Grief is often like a roller coaster, 4-9 months the sadness often comes back strong, and that's a normal part of healing. Psychologists don't use this framework anymore even though it's still popular with the public.
As a reminder the old "Five stages of grief" or “DABDA”
An alternative more modern framework is the Six 'R's of Mourning.
More likely to feel really bad when everyone leaves after the funeral, called the "pit" and you eventually climb out of it.
"You're not crazy you are just grieving." You are going to get there; we are here for you.
Never say "at least" ‘he is no longer suffering,' ‘be grateful they‘.
Do not try to theologically explain away the death, even for the faithful their belief system is usually rocked to the core with a loved one dying. They can't believe there would be any better place than alive and at their side. Also, lots of people today don't feel confident in the afterlife. People in grief counseling sessions have said, "He's with God now makes me want to slap God in the face!"
Lots of psychological things happen when a parent dies. Sometimes the worst part is the end of hope for ever having a good relationship.
More people are having services before they die. 500 people might come to the funeral, but you need to let the dying person know what a difference they made in your life before they die. When they are dead is too late.
Never say "I know exactly how you feel."
“Disenfranchised grief” is when people say something like "get over it, it's only a cat!" Some people bond to animals as strongly as people/children.
Don't let anybody “SHOULD all over you” on when to clean out the closet, take off the ring, date.
Instrumental grievers want to DO right away, clean out the closet, start a tribute, others style might not be able to imagine doing anything for months.
Do put off all major irrevocable decisions. There are some short term things that we need to do, but others can and should wait. This is not a good time to make big decisions. Your brain doesn't work perfectly in grief or shock. If someone has a big idea to do something to do let's talk about it, but now you can focus on family.
You can't logic people out of their emotions. For example the fear of running out of money when there is more than enough. Name the fear, ask what they need to have to feel safe? What is the worst thing you could imagine happening to you right now? Writing about your fears takes away some of their power. Then brainstorm ideas and solutions.
“You still have a future, its just going to be a lot different than you have planned. Joy is possible; you will get through this."