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Supporting grieving families

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Pennsylvania Eagles coach, Andy Reid, is dealing with the incredible loss of his eldest son, Garrett. Reid informed Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie that he intends to heal from his pain by returning to work this week. He is being criticized in the media for neglecting his family responsibilities.

How a person decides to grieve a horrific loss of a loved one is very individual. How do people grieve and how can friends and family support them in this difficult time?

The death of a child is one of the most difficult experiences in life. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief does not always unfold in orderly, predictable stages. It can manifest in varied emotions. There are often unpredictable highs, lows, and setbacks. Everyone grieves differently. There is no “right way” to feel or act.

Grief may involve extreme emotions and behaviors. Feelings of guilt, anger, despair, and fear are common. A grieving person may cry out to God, obsess about the death of their loved one, lash out at others, shut down, bury themselves in work or cry for hours on end. Bereaved family need reassurance that what they’re feeling is normal. It is wrong to judge them or take their grief reactions personally.

There is no set timetable for grieving. For many people, recovery after bereavement takes a year or more, but for others, the grieving process may be shorter. Don’t pressure loved ones to move on or make them feel like they’ve been grieving too long. This can actually interfere with their healing.

If you want to help allow a grieving family acknowledge their feelings. They should be free to express their emotions without fear of guilt, judgment or criticism. Often just sitting in silence with the bereaved is a great gift. Ask how you offer physical help. If the family tells you they don’t need anything be prepared to make concrete offers.

There are many practical ways you can help a grieving person. You can offer to:

  • Shop for groceries or run errands.
  • Gas up their vehicle or provide a gas gift card.
  • Drop off a casserole or other type of food.
  • Help with funeral arrangements.
  • Stay in their home to take phone calls and receive guests.
  • Offer to mow the yard.
  • Help with insurance forms or bills.
  • Take care of housework, such as cleaning or laundry.
  • Create a memorial scrap book or video of their loved one.
  • Watch their children or pick them up from school.
  • Drive them wherever they need to go.
  • Look after their pets.
  • Go with them to a support group meeting. Lehigh Valley Hospice offers many.
  • Invite them to join you in some activity that they enjoy such as taking a walk, playing a game or going to lunch.

Grief and loss through a death is something everyone eventually will have to face. Gentle, loving, support is something we all need.

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