The loss of a loved one is one of life’s most difficult experiences. As Catholics, we know that death is not the end, but the grief of loss is still terrible. Even Jesus wept over the death of his dear friend Lazarus before He raised him from the dead.
When a friend or family member loses a loved one, it is sometimes hard to know how to help them. Fear of doing the wrong thing or not knowing what to say can keep us from helping our friends in their time of greatest need. To help with this, here are just a few tips on how to support a friend or family member who has lost a loved one:
1. Be there for them.
Let the grieving person know that it’s OK to cry in front of you, get angry, and express their feelings without any fear of judgement or criticism. Be willing to sit in silence if your friend doesn’t feel like talking.
Make every effort to attend the funeral or the wake, or both. If distance makes that impossible, consider sending flowers or some other token to show your friend that you are supporting them during this difficult time.
2. Assemble a team.
If your friend is responsible for funeral arrangements, the process can be overwhelming, especially when the minutiae of daily life is added on top of that. Make a list of things to do (choose a funeral home, contact a priest, walk the dog, provide meals, do laundry) and then assemble a team of family and friends to take on or help with each task.
Even if they’re not making funeral arrangements, having a group of family and friends pitch in will help the bereaved and let them know they are not alone in their grief.
3. Don’t be upset if your friend doesn’t want to talk.
Communication can be overwhelming to someone who is grieving, and they are likely inundated with family and friends offering their sympathy. So if your phone calls or texts go unanswered, don’t be offended. Keep in contact and try sending messages that don’t require a response. A simple “We love you and we’re praying for you” will be much appreciated.
4. Let them know you are praying for them.
Send a spiritual bouquet (a group of prayer or devotions gathered together for a specific intention), have a Mass said for them, offer to drive them to Mass, or join them to pray a Rosary together.
5. When offering to help, be specific.
Offers to “call me if you need anything” will rarely be taken up, so if you want to help, be specific. Offer to cook meals, provide childcare, go grocery shopping, or anything else you can do.
6. Remember the deceased, even after the funeral.
The loss of a loved one hurts long after the funeral, and holidays and certain occasions can be especially hard. Keep the memory of the deceased alive by sharing fun stories or ways that their loved one made an impact in your life. Offer to commemorate a birthday or anniversary in a special way, make a charitable donation in honor of the deceased, or organize a memorial plaque or bench to honor the deceased.
7. Offer to drive them to a bereavement program.
Many dioceses offer bereavement support groups where others who have lost a loved one can give and receive support from others who know the depth of their pain. Make sure you let them know you are not suggesting the program because you are tired of their grief, but because you want to expand their network of support, especially with people who understand their experience.
If you or a friend has lost a loved one, we would love to keep them in our prayers. Submit your Prayer Request and we will offer it up individually at our daily staff Rosary.