Mistakes will happen
You are probably going to mess this up. It’s OK. We all mess up.
Supporting someone you care about is a continuous work in progress - it’s not once and done. Even with the best intentions, you might accidentally say or do something that hurts them. Respect that they might need space from you, but don’t give up on yourself or your grieving person. The worst thing you can do is disappear.
But . . . I don’t want to make it worse
Just the fact that you are reading this shows that you are an awesome and curious person who understands that approaching people in grief can be really delicate. If you root your intention into truly supporting your person, it is unlikely that you will make things worse. If you want to help, sit with them in their pain. (This often requires you to deal with some of your own grief, and that may be uncomfortable.)
But . . . I don’t want to remind them about it
We will never be reminding a grieving person of their loss. Instead, we’ll be reminding them that we have not forgotten their loss. Grievers typically are always thinking about their loved one. Reach out to show your support, you'll be reminding them how much you care.
But . . . I always say the wrong thing
You don’t have to say anything at all. Resist the urge to fill the silence with your own story. It’s awkward, we know, but you can do it. Your relationship with the person you are supporting is worth the awkward silence. Just showing up to listen is an enormous gift.
in regards to offering support and how to hold space for somebody and not bring in our own history, our own ba- "b- baggage," um, I- I'm reminded of something that I learned when I was in graduate school, um, an acronym, WAIT. "Why am I talking?"
So, am I talking and am I sharing because I feel that this person nee- like, needs that validation and needs that support and that normalization? Or am I talking or sharing because I am uncomfortable with what's being shared and feel that I need to s- fill the space? There's comfort, um, and growth in silence and just being able to sit with someone without having to use our words.
Try not to take it personally
If they a griever refuses what you are offering, that’s OK. Prepare yourself for the reality that what you are offering might not be helpful right now. There might already be too many casseroles in the freezer - it's not a dig on your cooking.
If a griever does not respond to you right away, they might just need some time until they are ready. Ask if it’s OK for you to keep checking in.