At Krause Funeral Homes, we often hear stories like this one:
“After my husband died, there was an outpouring of support. My phone rang and rang. I had meals dropped on my front porch. I received sympathy cards and was able to catch up with friends and family at the funeral. But then . . . everything changed.
“Weeks and months went by and it was like everyone else had moved on. Did they forget that I was going through one of the hardest experiences of my life? Or maybe they expected me to ‘get over it’ faster than I did. Regardless, I felt very alone.”
Many on our professional staff here at Krause have been on both sides of this equation. We’ve lost those close to us and have had friends or family members experience the death of a loved one. We have an extra measure of understanding through our work helping Milwaukee, New Berlin, and Brookfield families plan funerals and cremations. We realize the complexities of the grieving process; that it’s different for everyone.
Those who care about someone who is grieving face questions and complications all their own. You want to show support – but don’t want to overwhelm. You pick up the phone to call – but aren’t sure what to say. You try to reach out – but after a while it feels a little forced . . . so you hold back.
Walking alongside those who lose loved ones can be tenuous and filled with uncertainty. In our years helping Milwaukeeans, we’ve seen certain approaches work well and want to pass them along. We hope you’ll find these suggestions helpful.
Listen carefully and attentively. How many times have you interjected your own story or personal experience into a conversation because you felt awkward? When your grieving friend is talking to you, do your best to simply listen rather than comparing your experience to theirs or offering advice. Tell them how sorry you are, how awful their loss is, and that you see how much pain he or she is in. Listening and understanding are two of the most valuable gifts you can give.
Keep your expectations for your friend in check. When someone is hurting, they may not act like themselves. They might say inappropriate things, react in unexpected ways (laughing instead of crying), or you may feel they’re trying to avoid you. Grief looks different on every person, and it’s important to continue to love them as they experience sadness, anger, and other emotions that are unfamiliar. Even if you feel they’re pulling away, make sure they know you’re there for them whenever they need you.
Reach out regularly in different ways. If you and your friend texted often before their loved one died, check in that way. If they don’t respond, stagger your texts while continuing to offer encouragement. Try sending an email or making a phone call. These don’t have to be sagas or hour-long conversations. A simple “How are you doing?” or “I’m thinking about you and am here for you,” is all it takes.
Offer to get together in person on “big days.” A birthday, holiday, or anniversary of death can be especially difficult to face – and is often dreaded. Ask your friend if they’d like to visit their loved one’s final resting place together. Enjoy a meal. Page through photo albums side by side and share memories if that would bring peace and comfort.
Our Krause Funeral Home team has been there for families for decades and we know how much of a difference support like this can make for those who are grieving. For additional information, take a look at our grief resources and our interactive grief support. And always know you can connect with us any time by phone or in person at any of our four locations around Milwaukee. We’re here to help you “be there” for others.