Grief takes many forms. We grieve when someone we care about has died, when a friendship or romantic relationship ends, when a pet dies, when our dreams for the future are altered, when we leave a job, when we move to a new home, or when we face a traumatic experience.
We experience grief on every level of our being. It changes us physically, causing changes to our sleep patterns, appetite, making us more susceptible to headaches, stomach aches, and lowered immunities. Grief impacts our cognitive functioning; temporarily causing loss of focus, memory loss, brain fog, and can cloud how we view the world.
Grief can cause one person to cycle through multiple emotions very quickly and intensely, while causing another to feel numb and disconnected. Both responses are normal and can exist within the same person at different times during the grief process. One may feel sadness, anger, sorrow, peace, relief, agitation, embarrassment, acceptance, frustration, denial, detachment, or numbness throughout the grieving process.
Grief can impact us spiritually; causing some to question their faith and others to lean into their faith or look for ways to make meaning out of what has happened.
Grief can also impact us socially. When tragedy happens, often people surround the grieving person in the immediate days. They might bring food, offer to help with chores or just spend time together. This can be comforting, helpful, and/or overwhelming for the person/family who may still be in the early stages of grief or even still numb. Eventually, people move on, sometimes right when the grieving person is starting to feel the full impact of their grief.
How can you best support a grieving family?
Be specific when you offer to help. Instead of saying “Let me know if you need anything” say “I can pick up the kids for you this week” or “I can dog-sit for you while you are out of town for the services.”
Gift cards for services that they can use when they need it most (i.e. cleaning services, meals, etc.)
Provide comfort items for the kids- a stuffed animal, a sweatshirt or blanket.
Spend time with the kids; take them to the park or on other outings so the parents can have time to grieve privately and the kids can have a break.
Invite the grieving person out for a walk, a cup of tea, etc.
Use the name of the person who died. It can be comforting.
Don’t place expectations on their grief. People grieve in different ways and on different timelines.
Suggested books for children on grief:
“Chester Raccoon and the Acorn Full of Memories” by Audrey Penn
“One Wave at a Time: A Story About Grief and Healing” by Holly Thompson
“Ida, Always” by Caron Levis
“Samantha Jane’s Missing Smile” by Julie Kaplow
“The Memory Box: A Book About Grief” by Joanna Rowland
“If Only” by Carole Geithner
“Goodbye Days” by Jeff Zentner
“The Beauty that Remains” by Ashley Woodfolk
“We Are Okay” by Nina LaCour
“A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness
“Me (Moth)” by Amber McBride
“The Line Tender” by Kate Allen
“The Light in the Lake” by Sarah R. Baughman
“The Remarkable Life of Coyote Sunrise” by Dan Gemeinhart