After the death of someone you love, you might feel isolated and misunderstood. In our Griefshare Class (griefshare.org), we learned about writing a letter to those around you to help them understand your grief.
In this letter or email to your family or coworkers, you can take an opportunity to share some of your current feelings. You can also explain how they could be helpful to you.
Some examples of words you might use:
- You can talk with me and let me know you care.
- Don’t say “I know how you feel.” Instead, say “I am sorry for your loss.”
- Don’t assume men cope with trauma better than women.
- Here is a list of some specific ways you can help.
- Don’t tell me everything will be okay, but tell me you will be there.
- Don’t try to find the reasons or explanations for why things happened—or try to explain things away with spiritual reasons. Sometimes just being there is enough.
- Allow some privacy and time, and don’t become upset if I don’t have the energy to respond.
- Try not to take the things I say or do too personally.
- Please continue to text me, call me, and invite me to things.
Have you written a grief letter? I’d love to hear what you included in yours. Our family’s example is below.
Here’s our grief letter from September 2016, after the death of our daughter Winnie:
Dear Friends and Family,
After a loss, there’s so often the question of “what can we do?” We’ve appreciated the cards, notes, meals, sweet gifts, and overwhelming generosity. We’ve loved the words and stories about Winnie (and Clive) and how they’ve impacted you or someone. We’ve appreciated the people who have wrestled to find the right words. No words are perfect, but we know how much you care. It means a lot.
What can you continue to do for us after the first few weeks?
Continue to pray. Really, really pray. For our hearts, our future, and our marriage. The shock and numbness is just beginning to wear off, and we have so such healing to go through. Marriage is so hard during this time. As we struggle to have enough energy for our own sadness and emotions, it’s hard to have energy, grace, love, and patience for each other. We’re being really intentional and using what we learned last year, but it’s still hard.
Continue to reach out. The notes and cards putter out after a couple weeks, but our hearts continue to hurt for so, so long. For us, reaching out might mean a note or even a text to invite us to something. Don’t worry, we don’t feel guilty saying no. We try to know our limits. We’ll probably say no 90% of the time. Being around people is really hard and exhausting right now.
Give us space and time. Things will never be ‘back to normal,’ but the raw grieving in the first 6 months or so needs extra measures of grace and space. Last year, a lot of the deep sadness set in at about the 3-4 month mark after Clive died. Be understanding that we’ll have much less energy and be much more forgetful for many months to come.
Talk about our kids. Ask us how we are actually doing. Not that every conversation has to be serious, but it’s hard when these things are never mentioned.
Most importantly, you can do these things:
Turn to God. In prayer, in worship, in relationship. You need Him just as much as we do.
Look around you. We’re not the only ones who need support. There are so many people suffering alone.
Get involved in a church community if you’re not yet. Or if you don’t love yours, find one you love. Come to ours. Find one that loves you, encourages you, challenges you, and draws you closer to Him. Find one where you can serve (not just be served) and fellowship with others. We could not get through this without our loving church community supporting us, and we want that for everyone else. These relationships take time, effort, and energy, but they are oh, so beautiful.
Sam and Rachel George