With Grief, Support Timing Can Be Everything

The mission of Lisa’s Legacy is to support someone who is grieving. The bags help to reach out to someone who is suffering from a loss. People respond to someone offering them a grief bag and often are open to meeting with the giver of the bag. That’s where the compassionate conversation can take place.

Our minister came to call on us at home the day that Lisa died. Lisa’s minister from Michigan called us on the phone a day or two after she died. While they both offered comforting words and scriptures, I was in such shock and distress that I couldn’t fully absorb much of what they were saying. Looking back on it, I would have liked to have both ministers follow up with me a second time, but weeks later.

It’s hard to know when to offer the Lisa’s Legacy bag. My recommendation would be to wait for about one to two weeks after the funeral. There’s too much going on before the funeral and often in the week after the funeral. But when all that busyness dies down, a grieving person may be open to a quiet, calming conversation. They may be wanting something like the adult coloring pages or the journal to fill some of their time in the wee hours of the night or before dawn when sleep won’t come. I know that I couldn’t focus on any one thing for long periods of time---not even a tv show or a book.

In the bag that my family and I received, there was a list of counselors and grief support groups in our city. My husband, older daughter and I saw the counselor within two weeks as we were coming up on Christmas and we couldn’t imagine how to handle the holiday.

After the holidays and the dreariness of winter was weighing on me, I finally pulled out the list of support groups. This would have been about the middle of January, about six weeks after Lisa’s death. It took almost another month before I actually attended a support group meeting. The group leader once told us that it takes about six weeks at the earliest before a person is really ready to accept the support of others. She said that more often, people don’t seek support for months. I think a person finally has to say to themselves, “I can’t cope with this devastating death by myself anymore.” I wondered “how do other people deal with an awful tragedy”? “Are there some quotes, words of comfort, motivations that help to get through this”?

While each person has their own timeline for dealing with death, I also think it’s helpful to have suggestions for when that person wants to move on from the self-induced cocoon. If I hadn’t had the list of support groups or counselors right there on our coffee table, I don’t think that I would have been inclined to make inquiries on my own.

The bottom line is to try to gauge the person that you’re wanting to support in grief. Anticipate when they are coming out of their “cocoon.” Then be ready to help them find a trained grief counselor or a good support group. I also strongly suggest that you put it in writing so that they can reference it later.

While there is no exact science for the timing to help support someone who is grieving, the important thing is to just do it. My hints and suggestions for the timing are meant to convey that follow up after the funeral/”celebration of life” is what is so meaningful to the recipient.

What has been your experience after the death of a loved one? Did you have support---immediately and down the road? What advice would you give to someone who wants to support a grieving person regarding the timing?

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