Dealing With Grief: Being There for Your Loved Ones Is All You Can Do

Losing a loved one is never easy. Losing your fiancé and the parent of your child is even harder — and losing them in the span of a second is arguably one of the hardest things a human being can bear.

I know this because I experienced it secondhand when my friend and soon-to-be brother-in-law, Mark, passed unexpectedly. The heart attack was sudden, taking him midsentence. Even with an incredibly quick ambulance response, there was nothing to do and no way to prepare. He was gone.

For Mark’s fiancée, Miranda, who had a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter with Mark, dealing with grief had to take a back seat to the daily grind. She had bills to pay and an energetic toddler to care for. Those tasks were challenging enough with Mark’s support; without it, real life sometimes felt insurmountable.

I can’t say whether the traditional seven stages of grief applied to Miranda’s situation. Though we talked daily throughout the early weeks of her struggle, I couldn’t begin to know her particular type of sorrow — whatever losses and challenges life has thrown at me, I’m fortunate that none have been near that level. However, this situation taught me the five best words you can say during a tough process: “I am there for you.” There’s a catch, though: You have to follow through, and you have to remember that dealing with grief can take a very long time.

In the beginning, Miranda was understandably in a state of shock. My wife (Miranda’s sister) and I did everything possible to shield her from the real world during this time. We watched her daughter while she worked, mowed her grass, did her shopping, and did our best to let her process everything at her own pace. As time went on and the numbness turned to sorrow, we gave her a shoulder to cry on when she needed it and space to start dealing with grief when she didn’t.

We also let her know that she was never putting us out, no matter what she needed and no matter when she needed it. To make this point, we took the initiative whenever possible: My wife is close enough to her sister that dropping by, whether with a bag of groceries or to babysit for her on a work night, didn’t seem intrusive. We couldn’t fill the Mark-sized hole in Miranda’s life, but we could help her manage the static while she found her own way.

So often, saying “let me know what I can do for you” turns into an empty platitude in times of loss. It’s something we say because we think we’re supposed to. But if you can, showing you really mean it when a loved one is dealing with grief is the best thing you can do.

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