5 Ways to Care for Someone in the Early Days of Grief


5 Ways to Care for Someone in the Early Days of Grief
Many of us are familiar with the five stages of grief. But what about those disorienting hours and days directly after life changing loss occurs? Those moments when everything has been turned upside down and is forever changed. Megan Devine, grief advocate and author of the blog Refuge in Grief, says that "early grief is not an ordinary time and ordinary rules do not apply." This fragile time is all about simply surviving.
When a friend is experiencing the initial waves of overwhelming grief and loss, we all know the strong desire to do something, anything, to help. Here are 5 practical ways to care for someone in the hard days of early grief:
1. Don't say "let me know if you need anything." Someone whose life has just changed doesn't know what they need right now. Instead, think about their needs and meet them. For instance, drop off bagels, cream cheese and bottled water and text your friend that breakfast is on her doorstep. Or set up a meal schedule and ask recipients to provide nutrient-dense, nourishing meals. Your friend is making so many decisions and you can greatly help by taking care of basic necessities like food and water.
2. When a nursing mother loses her baby, it's helpful to remember she will need to suddenly wean and likely be physically uncomfortable for a while. When my friend lost her 2 month old son, Andre, I brought her a basket full of items to help dry up her milk. The box included the recipe and all the ingredients for Sage Tea (*see recipe below). I also included cabbage leaves and Sudafed, both proven to dry up milk ducts.
3. Thoughtful gifts can be meaningful. The same friend who lost her son found comfort in the book Tear Soup, special jewelry, a painting someone made for her son, and a mug that said "Andre's Mom".
4. If circumstances allow, it can be helpful for a newly grieved person/couple/family to get away for a few days. Consider going in with a group of friends and paying for a rental and packing all the food they'd need.
5. Most of all, don't downplay their grief, don't compare your grief to theirs and don't try to point out the bright side right now. There will be time for that, but the time isn't in the early days of grief. The desire to say the "right thing" is great, but sometimes less is more. Just be there, offer a heartfelt hug and shared tears. All your friend needs to hear is "This is horribly wrong and I'm so sorry this is happening. I'm here for you".
Sage Tea Recipe
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves or 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 cup water
  • Honey to sweeten (optional)
  • Lemon wedge (optional)
Infuse sage in boiling water. Let steep for 5-15. Drink 1 cup 2-6 times per day to decrease milk supply.

Read other recent articles by Maureen Witmer:

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Adina & Maureen
Adina & Maureen

Welcome! We're thrilled you stopped by. Our own joys and sorrows have taught us that a well-timed meal delivered by a friend is one of the best gifts imaginable. In this space, we share our favorite recipes to take to friends, meal-taking tips, and other ways to care for those who are dear to you.

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