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BMO Nesbitt Burns
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Helping Other After They Have Suffered A Loss
When a major life event occurs, people enter a state of mental stress and anxiety. This mental fog overrides their ability to make sound decisions, think long term and act in the present. At Faheem Allidina & Associates, we work with clients to help them regain clarity and control. Experiencing a life-altering shift is emotionally and physically exhausting – our experience in Financial Transition Planning lends us an understanding of the emotional realities that our clients begin to grapple with as they transition into their new normal. Tragedy can strike in many forms, and when it does you want to be prepared to provide your friend, family member or colleague with the support they need and deserve. Below I explore some of the most effective ways of lending yourself to someone experiencing flux in their once stable life.
Having “something to say” isn’t your best support mechanism.
Finding the right words to lift a survivor of tragedy out of their grieving state will leave you speechless and rattling your brain for days. This is because, those words may not exist. It is important to have faith in the power of your presence. Your embrace, touch, sincerity and empathy are far more effective at showcasing your support.
Make the call.
It is common to place the accountability of your actions on the griever with offers such as “I’m here for you, when you need me”, or “If you need anything, give me a call”. While these gestures are thoughtful and rooted in respecting the personal space of the griever, they position the griever as having to reach out for assistance. This can be an exhaustive and unappealing task while juggling the stresses of a life transition. It is better to offer actionable gestures such as, “May I go grocery shopping with you or for you this Sunday”. An offer like this is not lost in a pending call from your grieving friend, but is deliverable on a specific date. Moreover, it reminds the griever that you are thinking of them which in turn elevates their self-esteem and boosts their morale when they need it most.
Help with the day-to-day tasks.
Grandiose gestures like flowers and sweets are well meaning but short-lived. Tasks that were once second nature to a griever may now be daunting, and loom over them as they experience a range of mental, physical and emotion symptoms. Facing a massive loss will deplete their physical energy and mental stability. This is completely normal and the best thing you can do is take over those minor and menial everyday tasks. You might answer the phone, prepare meals for the week or do their laundry. This will go a long way as they navigate the waters of their shifting world.
Help with the kids.
If they have children, providing them with a much needed break from the sadness will free up some time for their parents to organize after-death logistics or simply offers them a day free from putting on a brave face. You could invite them to go to the park or cook them dinner outside their home. They will welcome the love and support of a non-family member and may be happy to discuss their thoughts and feelings on the tragedy with someone who it does not directly impact.
Your role as a listener will alleviate stress and the accumulating pressure of bottled-up emotions. Open and honest conversation is the antidote to a grieving heart. Your ability to listen is essential to their healing process as it guides the griever on a path towards acceptance and embracing their new normal.
Allow them to grieve in whatever way works.
The process of grieving is a highly individual and personal experience, unique to every one of us. Your friend, family member or colleague may find solace in spirituality, religion and creativity in ways that are contrary to the person you thought they were. Everyone suffers in their own way, avoid passing judgment and focus on creating a safe space for exploration.
Keep checking in.
Don’t assign any expectations to the griever. In many cases, the shock of the tragedy subsides months after the incident and that is when the real grieving begins. They will experience waves of emotions – some good days and some truly terrible days. Be thoughtful of sensitive dates, like the anniversary of the tragedy, birthday of the deceased and so on. Mark them in your calendar and reach out on the date or before it to check in on their state.