Kindness is key to supporting those suffering with loss

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By Mary McKenzie

“Call us if you need anything…” How often is this phrase heard at a funeral visitation? Although well intended, it really rings of half-hearted efforts of false support. Still other comments, which may harm rather then help: “God needed him more…you are only given what you can handle”, and “at least he isn’t suffering anymore.” While searching for meaning is part of the grief process, it is a highly personal and diversified phenomenon.

Clichés tend to place blame of negative energy upon the survivor, though most people have not even the faintest idea of this intention. While it is helpful to give hope of faith, implying suffering places unnecessary blame on the survivor.

Fear in facing friends or acquaintances having recently experienced an emotionally draining illness and death is difficult. Approach the idea of death with what it really is…the end of a life. This is Mother Nature; as everyone lives, and will die. The body just quit working; but it is a major change in the life of the survivor.

“Now is the time for kindness.” This gripping statement from the move WIT really does summarize the whole death experience. Stay away from implied comments and instead try to reach out and focus on easing the heartache of loss. An acronym to help remember how to approach this situation is SAD.

Say something simple and short: “I’m so sorry…I’ve been thinking about you.”

Acknowledge the deceased in a positive regard: “He was so……She always…”

Direct action of future contact. “I will call you next week…”

Consider an offer for a meal or just to talk. Phone calls and cards are very much appreciated, as a survivor may not feel like leaving their home or having company. Calls over the year to let them know that you have really thought of them.

While talking with a survivor – listen. Let them lead the conversation and allow them to tell their “story” over and over. Remember to realize that concentration and focus is often lacking temporally after an emotional event. People are not always aware that they are repeating themselves. It is really therapeutic to allow them to do so.

Share memories and use the deceased person’s name. It is a welcomed emotion to allow them the opportunity to laugh and reminisce.

Just being with the person provides a sense of presence and comfort. This is even more appreciated in the weeks following the death when loneliness can be more pronounced. Routine is difficult to get back to normal.  Always call before a visit as a gesture of common courtesy.

Interactions following a death are very meaningful and will be long remembered. It really helps with the expression of grief and can be a thoughtful support throughout the year. 

Hospice of the Bluegrass has grief counseling available to everyone in the community, even if the deceased was not a hospice patient.  There is no cost.  Upcoming grief events:  “Mother’s Day Nosegays” Friday, May 1, 2009 at 12:00pm at the Hospice of the Bluegrass office.  Spouse Group “Marble Journaling” June 12, 19, and 26, 2009 from 2:00pm to 4:00pm at Hospice of the Bluegrass office.  Call to register 234-6462 or 1-800-756-6005 or mmckenzie@hospicebg.org to inquire about counseling.