How to Ask for Help with Grief
If you have ever lost a loved one, chances are you’ve heard the phrase, “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do” so many times that it barely registers.
This phrase, uttered with the best of intentions, says both everything and nothing when you have experienced a major loss. Everything, because it is wonderful to have people in your life who want to support you during this difficult time; nothing, because it’s extremely rare that you can come up with a specific task to assign them. When you are reeling from the pain of your loss, the overwhelming emotions that accompany grief, and a future without your loved one, you are in no position to micromanage all your friends and relatives to help you make it through the day.
However, it is important to remember that people really do want to be useful to you. This is one time in your life when asking for help is not only expected—it is welcomed. By being able to support you during this difficult time, your friends and relatives will be better able to come to terms with their own loss and grief.
If you need help after the death of a loved one, or if you find yourself struggling in the weeks, months, and even years following your loss, here’s how you can ask for help.
Make a To-Do List
There are countless errands and tasks that need to be done before, during, and after a funeral. Make a list of everything and then separate it out into sections. One section can be things that only you can do; another can be errands that family members and friends are able to handle. When someone asks if there is anything they can do, take them up on it. Find an item on the list that matches their abilities and assign it to them.
Tasks do not have to be specifically related to the funeral. Depending on your situation, help might include:
- Going to the grocery store
- Cooking dinner/prepping lunches for the kids
- Taking care of your kids
- Taking care of your pets
- House sitting or house cleaning
- Providing out-of-town relatives with a place to stay
- Doing the laundry
- Taking care of yard work
- Cleaning out the deceased’s closet
- Holding a garage or estate sale
It might feel strange at first to ask your Aunt Edna to come over and fold your socks, but it could end up being just what you need. Not only will the chore get done, but you’ll also have the company of those who matter most to you.
Be Honest about Where You Are both Physically and Emotionally
Even if the funeral is over and your to-do list is complete, it’s perfectly acceptable to continue to ask for—and receive—help. For example, when you run into friends, relatives, and neighbors, they might ask, “How are you doing these days?” or “How are you holding up?” These questions are often asked out of politeness, but do not be afraid to answer them honestly. The trick is to include an opening for an actual plan of action so others can follow up.
- “Not so good, actually. It’s been tough, getting back on track. I’m hoping to find a support group, but I don’t know where to start looking.” (This provides an opening for them to help locate a support services in your area.)
- “I’m doing okay emotionally, but I’ve been dragging on my feet for weeks. The dishes are piling up in the sink and I just can’t find it in me to tackle them.” (This lets them know that you are open to receiving physical assistance with things like chores and daily tasks.)
- “Some days are good, others are bad, but I never know which one it’s going to be until I wake up. Sometimes, I just need a reason to get out of bed, even if it’s just for a friendly chat.” (This can lead to making lunch plans or setting a time to meet for coffee.)
Although some people won’t take advantage of these openings, you might be surprised how willing people are to jump in and help. And if these don’t work, you can also take a more direct route by reaching out to your loved ones and letting them know exactly what you need.
Seek Professional Help
If you are still struggling and not getting the help you need from friends and relatives, do not be afraid to try professional services. A grief counselor, support group, religious or community leader, or therapist can be an incredibly good resource—not just for handling your grief, but for coaching you in getting the support you need from the people in your life.