A Support System: Just a Call Away
You Have a Support System Waiting to be Asked
Beth stands staring at the open closet. Inside are her father’s shirts, pants, suits—neatly hanging, ready to be boxed up and donated to the thrift shop. It’s been two weeks since his funeral and Beth hardly has the energy to take one item off the hanger, let alone pack up the entire closet. She is still reeling from his death. Beth could use some support.
Who's Got Your Back?
Beth, like others who are mourning the death of a loved one, is experiencing the overwhelming grief that can immobilize you, zap your energy and lead to feelings of isolation and abandonment.
Beth probably already has a support system in place, ready for her to call. She assumes others notice her sadness, her absence from church or social events, so she doesn’t need to reach out. But to friends and family, her silence may be misconstrued as her ability to handle the situation without help. Yes, they are involved in their own lives. They may not be thinking about Beth. More than likely, they want to help—she just needs to ask.
You Don’t Want to Bother Others; Others Don’t Want to Upset You
Those in mourning may not call friends and family for several reasons, including not wanting to be a burden, not wanting to make someone else’s grief more difficult or believing they should have “gotten over” their loss by now. What mourners may not realize is that those who care about them want to help; they just don’t know how. Friends may be calling less because they don’t know what to say or they don’t want to be intrusive. They may be afraid to mention the deceased for fear of upsetting the mourner.
How to Create a Support System
For Beth, a phone call to a trusted friend could lead to help with the difficult task of packing her father’s things. Getting the comfort and support she needs now will also go a long way in helping her get back to participating fully in her life. Those who are grieving can create a support system by:
- Taking people up on their offers of help
- Being specific with requests for help
- Continuing activities that take them out of the house, where others can tell them they’ve been missed, such as church, gym and social events. Even if they stay only a short time, they’re getting important support.
- Seeking professional counsel: a member of the clergy, a psychologist or licensed counselor
If their loved one was on hospice, a mourner can take advantage of up to 13 months of bereavement support that hospice offers after a death. In fact, VITAS Healthcare offers bereavement support to anyone in the community, whether or not their loved one was a VITAS patient.
How to Be Supportive to a Friend in Mourning
Your friend has suffered a loss and you want to help. Here are a few tips:
- Don’t be afraid to call.
- Let your friend take the lead; listen without judgement or answers.
- Stay away from trite or generalized expressions of sympathy.
- Don’t ask to help. Instead, anticipate your friend’s needs. “I’ll be by to walk the dog after work.”
- Take on recurring tasks, such as mowing the lawn, taking their kids to school, etc.
The significance of having a support system when trying to adjust to the loss of a loved one cannot be overstated. If you are mourning, you are not alone. Look around. You’ll see there’s someone—probably several someones—who’ve got your back. They just need to be asked.