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How to support loved ones through grief when you can’t be with them

How to support loved ones through grief when you can’t be with them name

One of the most important things COVID 19 showed us has been the impact of grief, especially when we’re not able to be with loved ones who’ve experienced a bereavement. This includes not being able to provide help in their time of crisis, support them through the funeral, and generally be there for them.


As life settles into a new normal, the conversation around grief is even more important. How can we help during times of social distancing when grief itself is isolating?


1. Reach out


The most important thing is to reach out to them and let them know you’re thinking of them and offer your condolences. You can do this through the traditional way of sending a card or writing a letter. If you can’t do this because you can’t get to a post office or buy stamps at this time, there are other options, like email. . 


The best way to reach out is through the way you normally would with your friend or loved one. That might be FaceTime, WhatsApp, a phone call, email or text.  Let them know you’re there for them– to talk, to help, to distract, whatever, whenever they need you.  People often won’t reach out for help, so it’s a good idea to take the initiative and touch base on a regular basis to check in. You can say, “I’ll give you a call again on Monday morning if that suits you, to see how you’re doing. No worries if you’re busy and it doesn't suit, just let me know when.” 


2. Check in


After you’ve sent your condolences,  it’s helpful to continue to check in with loved ones so they don’t feel alone in their grief. Take cues from them about the support they want by simply asking them. One thing that many bereaved people tell us is that friends they had known for a lifetime ghosted them after the death of a loved one because they found it too hard and didn't know what to say. It’s much better to reach out and say something. Words are not enough but they are all we have. Even saying, ‘my heart hurts for you, and I am here for you,’ is better than ghosting. 


3. Stay connected


Ask your loved one how they prefer for you to stay in touch. Is it through FaceTime, ZOOM, Messenger or other messaging tool? If they love coffee, you could schedule a weekly virtual coffee date.  Try to avoid using a tool they don’t use, as this won’t help them feel supported - go with what they want. 


4. Memory and grief care gifts


Even though you might not be able to personally deliver a memory gift, you can go online and order them a gift to be delivered. Some online businesses deliver grief care packages, and a quick search will show a huge selection to choose from.  You can also create your own – this blog post (insert link: ) has some great ideas. 


5. Create a memory book or video


People often find comfort and solace in photos and memories of their loved ones, and also enjoy hearing stories about them from others. You could create a memory / photo book for them with photos you have, alongside text explaining a memory from the time the photo was taken. You can also create memory videos from photos and video footage you may have and add your own message of how the person who died touched your life. If you’re feeling especially motivated, you can get a group of friends together and get creative to produce a book or video from you all.


6. Share information about support organisations


Just like Kenzie’s Gift is here to support children, young people and families though serious illness or bereavement, there are other organisations out there that can offer support. It can be helpful to let your loved one know about support organisations that could be helpful. This doesn’t have to be awkward. In conversation, you can say something like, “I’m always here to support you, but if you would like more professional support, I can look into this for you…”


7. Suggest some post-isolation plans


Be guided by your loved one here, but if they’re feeling up to it, maybe suggest planning for a few days out together with friends post-isolation. This helps reinforce that social isolation is only temporary and you will all be able to come together and support each other again. They may also want to start planning a memorial for their loved one when the social distancing has lifted, and this can be helpful. 

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