Okay, so your friend or or colleague has lost someone and you have gone to commiserate.
Please note that they are grieving and hurting and so try not to make matters worse by what you say or do.
To help us behave, here are a few dos and don’ts to note when visiting the bereaved.
I drew up this list because the few times death crossed my mind before Mr Aisi’s death, I shuddered at the thought of visits. I am a private mourner, I prefer to do my crying in secret, wipe my tears and face the public having dealt with my emotions.
It was different with my husband. I knew that it was impossible to do so and that as soon as the news broke, I would be the recipient of a lot of attention, calls and visits.
Please don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful I wasn’t left alone and truly appreciate the fact that I was surrounded by our family members, friends and his colleagues. I definitely preferred being surrounded than being isolated but several things stood out and have informed my list so here goes-
- Don’t go visiting too early or too late. It should NOT be at your convenience only. Yes Lagos life is tough and all but it’s rather insensitive to go visiting at 7am or 10 pm except you are rather close and you know they will understand. The bereaved, especially in those early days, are spent emotionally and need to regain their energy and some sanity in the visits will help.
- When visiting be conscious of how much time you spend. This is relative and depends on the relationship you have with the bereaved or their family members. Sometimes the visits can drag for too long or become crowded especially when different groups of people arrive at the same time. However, if and when the right mix of people are around the visit could be an inspiring experience. The key is to be conscious of the time, place and people.
- Don’t ask the bereaved to let you know if they want anything because they wouldn’t. No one wants to be a burden on others. Look for something they will need help with and do it. It could be bringing cooked food, picking the kids from school, providing a driver and/or car to run errands etc. I had several friends bring cooked food and it was such a blessing because I wasn’t in the mood neither did I have the energy to think about cooking.
- Don’t ask questions about how the person died except the bereaved is ready to speak. People differ, for some it brings back memories or scenes they would rather forget whilst for some people like me, talking was therapeutic.
- Don’t offer platitudes,deny them their rights to cry, be angry or sad, make excuses for God and say it is well because it really isn’t. A lot of times we don’t know what to say so we mouth platitudes, cite unrelated examples ( every loss isn’t the same because the individuals involved are not alike and their circumstances are different) and do more harm than good. Most times it’s best to just sit quietly, observe before speaking and take your cue from who you are visiting.
- Don’t treat them like they are some specimen. Death makes us so vulnerable and if there is anything most people hate it’s pity and I guess that’s why most of us are secretive about our stories because we don’t want to be the subject of other people’s discussion. So, please behave as you would normally. The fact is that although their circumstances have changed both drastically and dramatically, people still need assurance that not every part of their life has changed and that certain things like their name, personality , temperament, relationships etc still remain the same.
- Don’t tell them to be grateful for all they still have. It is good for us to remember our blessings and I have no problem with that but sometimes it shuts us up and sort of implies that we have no right to grieve about some aspects of our life since Life and God has been good to us in other ways. We know that we have loads to be grateful for but the wound is still fresh and we want and need to focus on it for now.
- Do visit, call or text after the burial. It’s amazing what a ‘how are you doing? I thought of you today and said to call…’ or visit can do. After the burial the crowds stop and the surroundings echo one’s loneliness . It’s then that the reality of the loss hits the bereaved and that’s when the proper grieving starts.
- Do tell them in specifics the lovely things their loved one did or meant to you. They want to know that they lived purposeful, impactful lives no matter the length of time they lived. One of the things that has made Mr Aisi’s passing a bittersweet one is the fact that he touched so many lives. I loved to hear the stories told about him. It made his life worthwhile though it is so sad that the impact was not longer. So please mention the deceased in conversation when talking, death does not mean the person did not live and they will be happy to know their loved ones are not forgotten.
So that’s my list.
It is not conclusive so please feel free to add other tips in the comment section so we can all be educated and enlightened,
Have a wonderful new year