How to Support a Grieving Friend

Today, I am writing and talking about how to support a grieving friend.

Is it challenging to pick up the phone and call them?

If you are experiencing grief, reaching out to others who are also grieving can be healing. Like the photo above, our suffering can be hidden away, but when we support each other, our grief is lessened, and we take a small step forward like the fawns as they move out of the wetland and across the path to lush green grass.

They seem to be different ages. One has distinct spots, while the other’s spots have faded. Do you think they both have mothers? Perhaps one is an orphan, and the other is comforting them.

Overcoming Initial Reluctance

But what do you say to someone grieving without making it worse? Preparation helps.

First, take a few slow, deep breaths to connect to your heart rather than your head.

Then, consider using this outline as a guide.

  • Brainstorm how you will start the conversation.
  • Just listen.
  • Conclude the call by asking if you can call again in a few days.
  • Afterward, make a reminder in your calendar to call again.

How to Support a Grieving Friend

When is the Time Right to Call?

The time to call is now. If they aren’t ready, they won’t answer. If it’s been a few weeks and everyone has returned to their homes and routines, that may be the best time to call.

Before picking up the phone, write what you plan to say. Then you can just read your words.

“Hi, dear friend. It’s Dawn. I was thinking about you today and wondered how you are doing.”

Depending on their day, they may burst out crying. Or perhaps there is complete silence. Regardless, your response is to listen. It’s not necessary to say anything. When you punched in their number, the love in your heart started flowing toward them. And they need your love more than anything you can say.

When we feel nervous about the quiet moments, it’s easy to say something hurtful like, “I know how you feel.” It makes my heart ache to write those words. Regardless of our grief journey, we can never know what anyone else feels. But we can hold space in silence for them to take small steps toward healing their grief.

Knowing When to End the Call

Grieving can be exhausting. The call might end after a few minutes, or perhaps they need to tell the story again.

As you listen, it may feel like it’s time to wind down the call. Or you might feel exhausted and want to end the conversation. That’s okay.

Before you hang up, ask them if it’s alright to call them again in a few days.

Then, please make an appointment or reminder to call them. It will be easier the next time. And if you are also grieving, reaching out to others will heal your grief wounds, too.

If You Found This Helpful

I invite you to sign up for my newsletter below. If you think talking to a Grief Coach will help you heal your grief wounds, let’s start a conversation via email.

Obituary for Norman B. Anderson

This is based on the original obituary for Norman B. Anderson from the Valley Courier in Monte Vista, Colorado, in April 2015. At the time of Dad’s death, I wrote his official obituary with great difficulty. Here, I have rewritten the facts of that document from a place of grief wounds that continue to heal.

Norman Raymond Bernhard (Swede) Anderson, 85, of La Garita, CO, passed away at home on Monday, April 6, 2015. He was born in the Carlson-Taylor home in Lake Hamilton, FL, on August 1, 1929.

A Favorite Story

Swede grew up exploring the swamps and back country of Central Florida along the shores of Lake Marion. He told us stories of walking barefoot into the woods with his dog. There were some Seminole Indians who came to the Lake Marion area. He was just a little guy around five years old. The Seminoles wore traditional clothing and turbans, and they were scary. Norman would hide when he saw the Seminoles.

Citrus was His Career

After a freeze killed the grove on Lake Marion, his family settled on the shore of Crystal Lake in Dundee, FL, where his parents planted a 15-acre orange grove. He took care of the “home grove” and contracted out caring for groves owned by others. Eventually, he bought his groves with a friend, and they worked them together. Money was always tight, so Swede worked on his farming equipment and used his native ingenuity to craft innovative grove irrigation, tree cultivation, and pruning machinery.

His Hobbies Remembered

His hobbies included fishing, hunting, gardening, backpacking throughout the US, blacksmithing, and creating forged Damascus steel knives. A kinship with the outdoors brought Swede and wife Sue to the Rio Grande forest on a backpacking trip. They fell in love with the San Luis Valley and La Garita, which became their new home in October 1989. Swede continued to make knives and fabricate machine parts for residents. Family and friends will greatly miss him.

A Love for All of Nature

Swede loved all animals in the wild. He was especially fond of snakes. Rats were a problem in the Dundee, FL, property barn. But there were red rat snakes around that kept the rat population down. The 4-foot snakes seemed to know no harm would come from members of the Anderson family, and they were seen in many places near the house, including along the top of the stairs down to the half-basement and near the shore of Crystal Lake.

There were also poisonous snakes, including a coral snake over 3 feet long that liked to stay around the house foundation. Norman’s mother, Edith Anderson, disliked snakes and finally convinced him to kill the coral snake as she feared the children (Lila and Dawn) would be bitten. The hide was so beautiful Swede was curing it on a board in the barn. Unfortunately, an animal carried it off before the hide was dry.

A few Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes were in the area, including one that wandered into the Boston Ferns in the front yard near the lake shore. Swede heard it and walked into the ferns, asking Sue for his pistol. The family dog, “Jingles,” was with him and was bitten in the muzzle by the snake. Swede saw the strike and shot the rattlesnake. “Jingles” went to the vet but couldn’t be saved. Losing a loved pet to snakebite was a teaching opportunity about death and loss and, for the girls, instilled a healthy respect for rattlesnakes.

At home in La Garita, CO, a couple of Prairie Rattlesnakes preyed on the many resident chipmunks. His wife Sue doesn’t like snakes but understands why Swede is so protective of them. A pack rat was bitten by a rattlesnake in front of the house. It retreated behind some poultry wire around a clematis. Poultry wire and snakes aren’t compatible. The snake got stuck in the wire. Swede rescued the snake and removed the paralyzed pack rat to a safe place for the rattlesnake to consume it. Later, one of the rattlesnakes died, caught in another area of poultry wire. After that, he removed all the poultry wire.

His Loving Family

Norman is survived by his loving wife of 65 years, Sue Linebaugh Anderson; daughters Lila Rogers of St. Cloud, FL, Dawn Anderson of Centennial, CO; grandchildren; David Marciano of Pearland, TX, Lawrence Marciano of Orlando, FL, Elizabeth Opala of Eagle River, AK and Michael Rogers of St. Cloud, FL, great-grandchildren; Charlotte Marciano and Benjamin Marciano of Pearland, TX. Cousins in Sweden also survive him.
Swede was preceded in death by his father, Linus Falka Valentina Anderson of Kristenehamn, Sweden, mother, Edith Elizabeth Peterson of Sigel, Wisconsin, and sister, Lila Anderson Roads of Sacramento, California.
Swede donated his body to science via Science Care. At a future date, there will be a potluck memorial service at his favorite local spot where he enjoyed the coffee, conversation, and many meals – the La Garita Trading Post.

View photos of Swede Anderson in a Flickr Album.

Aha Moment About Self-Care

This past week I had an aha moment about self-care. Part of my revelation came as I looked at the scene from my dining room table. The world felt skewed when I noticed the messiness in my backyard. As I played with the photo, this version appeared. It seemed some self-care was needed.

My Previous Understanding

I’ve written several blogs about self-care, including my feature, Five Tips Toward More Self-Care. In reading my tips, I still feel they are valid. But now it seems just part of the story about self-care.

Before my aha moment about self-care, I thought it was about

  • booking manicures and pedicures
  • buying myself flowers
  • taking a walk in nature

Understand me. Self-care includes my shortlist. But it also includes taking care of yourself by

  • updating your resume
  • calling a friend
  • preparing and eating tasty food

What’s the Difference?

The first list seems like out-of-the-ordinary actions, while the second is more mundane. Does that open the door to more understanding about self-care for you?

Simply Stated

Self-care is taking care of yourself while not harming anyone else.

If it’s so simple, why do we often fall short?

From My Experience

From as far back as I can remember, my self-esteem was so low; putting my needs first was impossible. I couldn’t conceive what that meant.

My first memory of the term came from a woman’s magazine in the 1980s. I would pick one up as I waited at the grocery store check-out. The articles were talking to young mothers like me. My reaction was typical for the times.

“How can I take time for a bubble bath when caring for my home and family is a full-time job!”

Forty years later, I’m much wiser and know that taking time for self-care would have prevented so many problems in my mental state and relationships.

It’s More About Thinking than Doing

Generally, thinking leads us to a lot of stress. But if you can use self-talk to soothe yourself, it’s one of the best self-care modes.

When we start judging ourselves, it’s beneficial to turn it around with self-compassion. For instance, when someone says an unkind word, start acknowledging what you feel is a universal human experience. Others have felt the same way. The more you can see these experiences with self-compassion, the easier it will be to steer yourself away from focusing on self-sabotaging emotions and begin opening alternate thinking patterns.

My aha moment about self-care led to the acknowledgment of my personal growth over the last six months and an appreciation for everyone who has helped me along the way.

And thank you for reading my thoughts.