How We Can Help Those Who Grieve - Transcribed

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November Podcast Transcript

[00:00:00] Pete Waggoner: It’s time for good grief, the podcast from the O’Connell Family Funeral Homes. Check us out online at Today’s subject will be the topic of discussion of how we can help those that are grieving. Looking forward to getting into this one. It’s a common question that we receive and we will get into that a little bit deeper today.

[00:00:27] Joining us will be Michael O’Connell and Amber Miller from the O’Connell Family Funeral Homes. When we come back, we’re gonna dive into that topic. Looking forward to that, once again, as we continue this great podcast. More in a moment.

[00:00:56] Amber Miller: Hello, it’s Amber Miller from the O’Connell Funeral Home. The holidays are a tough [00:01:00] time for many reasons. The cleaning, the organizing, the entertaining of your family and friends or just simply the stress of buying that just right gift for your loved ones. But for many of you who are grieving, the emotional stressors that come with the holidays can feel intensified.

[00:01:15] We understand the pain the holidays can bring to those who have suffered a loss. This event, Hope for the Holidays, is an amazing evening that provides hope, comfort, and meaning to those grieving this holiday season. It’s also a resource to help you manage and cope during this difficult season. Head to our website, to check out this year’s guest presenters and to reserve your spot today.

[00:01:38] And now back to our podcast. 

[00:01:39] Pete Waggoner: Michael. Hello. How are you? 

[00:01:41] Mike O’Connell: Excellent. Thank you very much. It’s good to see ya. 

[00:01:44] Pete Waggoner: And Amber, how are you today? 

[00:01:45] Amber Miller: Doing well, thanks. 

[00:01:46] Pete Waggoner: Awesome. Thank you. Our topic of discussion today is on how we can help those that are grieving. I mentioned that in the open, and I’m sure it’s a common question that you two receive and it probably comes, I would assume, in different [00:02:00] ways and forms, shapes and sizes, you know, but it’s, it’s probably a common question.

[00:02:06] Amber Miller: Absolutely. We get, you know, phone calls of people wanting to know how they can help their friends and families who have just dealt with a loss. We get emails, we get people coming in for visitations, wanting to know, especially friends, How can I help? What can I do? 

[00:02:21] So it’s a big one. 

[00:02:22] Pete Waggoner: Okay. So you’ve mentioned in podcasts in the past the importance of community and building that circle, right? The support circle for healing.

[00:02:29] What are some of the important things for the supporters to know? 

[00:02:33] Amber Miller: Well, I think people don’t know what to say. They don’t know what things to say, what things they shouldn’t say. And, you know, death and grief is so uncomfortable for a lot of people. So I think, a big tip for people that are supporting those who have lost someone, is that remember that grief lasts for a lot longer than the duration of the funeral. 

[00:02:52] People are inclined to help right away, which is really great. But also remember and keep in the back of your mind that after the funeral is [00:03:00] over and the thank you cards are written and the out of town family and friends have departed. That can be a really hard place for a griever. So really focus on that. 

[00:03:09] Not to say that the immediate needs aren’t as important, you know, sending flowers and assisting with funeral planning process, but really think about them six months down the road because those are the challenging times.

[00:03:19] Pete Waggoner: That’s definitely a feeling of isolation that one can have during that process. And I think it’s smart, as you mentioned, to spread it out over time. It’s not quantity all at once. It’s quality and it’s knowing when to do it and how to do it.

[00:03:36] So in terms of your tip number two, advice and opinions versus support. What’s the difference? 

[00:03:45] Amber Miller: Well, I think, have you ever kind of had a discussion with your friend? And really what you’re doing is maybe venting the situation, you don’t need a solution. I think that goes really true for grievers Try to avoid dispensing advice or opinions unless they ask for it.

[00:03:59] Oftentimes [00:04:00] they’re just trying to either get their emotions out or trying to express something or just have a good listener and maybe they don’t want the solution, per se. 

[00:04:08] Mike O’Connell: What a great term. Dispensing . 

[00:04:10] Amber Miller: Right. And true in that grief is so unique to everybody is that, you know, avoid discussing how you felt. Or how your personal timelines were, or what you feel is right or wrong. Because their path and journey on their grief is going to look different. It’s gonna be different. So that’s okay.

[00:04:29] Mike O’Connell: I think on that same line, the fear would be is, you end up taking over that and making it about yourself.

[00:04:35] And it’s like when somebody’s pregnant and they hear everybody’s horror stories about when they went through pregnancies. It’s not about your feelings or what you’ve gone through. So don’t take that over. 

[00:04:49] Pete Waggoner: Well, and then it goes back to the saying that people are usually just wanting to vent. Instead of getting advice, would you agree with that? 

[00:04:56] Amber Miller: Absolutely. Yep. Sometimes the best medicine for [00:05:00] people is just the silent presence. That’s more meaningful to people than filling those painful moments with words. So it’s definitely frustrating when you get into that circumstance and you wanna talk about things and you have someone who’s talking over you or kind of changing the topic and turning it over to them, right? 

[00:05:18] Mike O’Connell: Amber and I have a dear friend that when we talk to him about different things, he knows when to interject and go, ‘Can I give you some advice?’ He asks, and if you don’t want it, you can say no, but he doesn’t just give it if you’re not prepared. If you don’t want to hear it, he’s not gonna give it.

[00:05:33] So that’s important.

[00:05:34] Pete Waggoner: We mentioned this in the etiquette podcast about not being afraid to mention a loved one’s name. That’s important too?

[00:05:41] Amber Miller: Absolutely. Grievers crave to hear the names of the people that they lost. And the last thing that they really want is for them to be forgotten because they’re not forgotten in their soul, their heart.

[00:05:51] Pete Waggoner: So it can be a bit foggy too through this whole process. And it’s okay for someone to not know what they need in grief. 

[00:05:59] Mike O’Connell: They’ve never been through it. [00:06:00] So how would they know? So, yeah, they don’t know if they should be feeling guilt or happiness or sadness. It’s in a variety of emotions.

[00:06:08] So, yeah. 

[00:06:09] Pete Waggoner: So if you wanna help someone with a tangible task and you say, ‘can I help you with that?’ And if it’s declined, what happens? Do you stop offering things? Do you step back? How do you respond to that? 

[00:06:21] Amber Miller: Well, to start is that, while it may seem thoughtful or kind of our initial thing to think about is “let me know if you need anything.” But that puts a lot of the pressure on the griever themselves to not only have to think about something that you can help with, but also in that foggy state of grief, they may not be able to. 

[00:06:38] So, come up with something tangible like you said, can I go help walk the dogs for you while you’re out funeral planning? Or can I help answer some of the phone calls for you? Can I take the car for an oil change? Can I watch the kids? 

[00:06:49] And if they decide to decline, that’s okay. Maybe that’s something that they want to do as part of their own grief work. 

[00:06:56] We talked previously about some kind of grief [00:07:00] styles. Maybe that’s their way of coping, way of dealing with things. So don’t take it personally that they decline, just check back in with them and maybe offer it again a month or two down the road. And maybe that would give them enough time to reflect, to say, ‘Yeah, actually I do need help in that, in that area.’ 

[00:07:15] Mike O’Connell: They’re gonna have boundaries, so respect it. You have no clue what they’re thinking or how they’re feeling. Don’t just assume. 

[00:07:22] And then the next question would be is why are you doing it? If it’s coming from the right place, you’re not gonna take offense to it. But if you do take offense to it, it’s cause you’re looking for some affirmation back or something that’s, that’s more self-serving than it is to help your friends or family.

[00:07:37] Pete Waggoner: And so the first thing I gotta ask you too, we’ve done a number of podcasts here. How do you have this wealth of knowledge, like boom. Is this through experience? Is this through education? I’ve mentioned it before, the two of you, you’re like part psychologists here, [00:08:00] part therapists, part social work.

[00:08:03] I mean it’s incredible the depth of knowledge that the two of you have. 

[00:08:08] Amber Miller: Well, we’re blessed in that we get to have these really kind, close relationships with the families that we serve, and it’s based on experience of things that they’ve, at least for me, things that they’ve shared with me. You know, sitting around the arrangement table and kind of the planning process after that.

[00:08:25] In the sharing of, ‘man, I, you know, I had a friend reach out to me and she said this, and I know she meant it from a place of love, but it was really hurtful at the time,’ or there’s ‘so, you know, I’m bombarded with all these phone calls of people asking what they can do when I just don’t know.’ And just kind of encapsulating that all to say, I’ve heard this multiple times from multiple families.

[00:08:45] How can we help those that are, like I said, heart’s in the right place, but how can we help people to really be effective in helping them?

[00:08:53] Mike O’Connell: It’s all the above Pete. You can experience some grief yourself, you surround yourself with great people. You know, I [00:09:00] look at my dad, and we’ve had Kathy Helgeson on podcasts before. The wisdom she can offer is just amazing. And you hear from families, and then you put all that together. It’s not a boxed commodity. It’s something you learn from scratch. 

[00:09:17] Pete Waggoner: Moving on to tip number five. One of the things to consider is honoring wishes. 

[00:09:23] Amber Miller: Absolutely. Sometimes if you reach out to someone and say, ‘Hey, would you like to go do something?’ and they say that they wanna be alone, I think provide that for them. Or if they express the opposite, absolutely. Help as best as you can. 

[00:09:35] But it’s important to be honest and genuine with what you can provide. If you say, ‘yep, absolutely. I can be here once or twice a week to provide some companionship,’ and you feel that that’s out of your realm of being able to, then that’s okay to be honest. 

[00:09:48] Don’t promise time you can’t follow through with, and along the same lines as that is, follow their lead. If they’re asking for certain things, whether it’s memorial preference or they needs in terms of their own schedule, [00:10:00] try as best as you can to honor those and you can most certainly reach out to the funeral home if you have any questions about that. 

[00:10:06] Mike O’Connell: You know, you can even follow up and say, ‘I completely respect you wanting to be alone, and that’s great. I just want you to know that I’m gonna be here for you and I’m a phone call away. I’m gonna stop and check on you. I love you and you don’t have to do this alone,’ but you’re acknowledging what they wanted. But you’re also letting them know you’re there in a quiet, mindful way.

[00:10:30] Pete Waggoner: What if they don’t list a memorial designation, but you still want to do something. What can you do?

[00:10:35] Amber Miller: Absolutely. That kind of goes along with honoring their wishes. If they wish for memorials to be given to a particular organization, try as best as you can to do that. If they, maybe say, in lieu of flowers or a particular organization and that’s difficult for you, what else can you do?

[00:10:51] Think globally about it. Maybe a memorial plaque for their garden is more fitting for them, instead of a plant or a flower or maybe a wind chime or a [00:11:00] candle. All of those things are really important. Or say they’re having a visitation at the funeral home and maybe purchasing a couple cookies or, or a meat and cheese tray for the family might be helpful or snacks for any young kids that are gonna be there.

[00:11:13] Or what about gift bags or care packages for the family, especially for those with young kids, prayer shawls or pocket angels, some of those things that have longevity, something that they would be able to keep for more than just a couple of weeks down the road.

[00:11:26] Maybe those are some other things.

[00:11:27] Pete Waggoner: How about tip number six? Help guide their healing and listen. That’s another key component is the old listen. 

[00:11:33] Amber Miller: Like I said earlier, I think we have this propensity to fill the silence with words because it makes us uncomfortable. But a lot of times that’s what grievers want is just someone that will stand with them in their grief and in the silence of grief. So really helping them, and by helping them listening. So listening to what their needs are and not filling them with what you think their needs are. [00:12:00] So sometimes too, this kind of goes back to maybe some grief of kind of anticipatory grief.

[00:12:07] Expecting that to happen and maybe a friend reaches out and says, ‘I’m just not sure what I wanna do with the funeral and next steps.’ And listening to what their needs are, and really looking out for their healing long term, I think is important. And we’re really passionate here at the funeral home about that and kind of displaying the importance of having funerals or celebrations or anything that will bring about healing.

[00:12:30] Pete Waggoner: So if you have imminent death coming on from parents or loved ones close to you, how? And you’re unsure of what to do, I mean, how do you help in that process and what do you, what would you two choose, suggest are the next steps?

[00:12:45] Amber Miller: Well first, listen to what their needs are. I think that’s really important.

[00:12:49] And then I would suggest that they reach out to the funeral home or to their pastor, any other community leader that they’re comfortable with to really talk about next steps. I think, and [00:13:00] we’ve mentioned in podcasts previously, that people just say, ‘I just want a maybe a simple cremation’ But what does that mean?

[00:13:06] What does that look like? What does the family structure look like? And in terms of your healing? I mean, we’re professionals in this industry and we know that grief isn’t just about right now, and it’s not about next week. How is this gonna look a year down the road? Is this gonna be something that’s gonna affect you?

[00:13:20] And we really focus on that. And pastors and other community leaders do the same. So maybe that’s a good resource to have them reach out to. 

[00:13:28] Pete Waggoner: What about traumatic deaths from homicide to suicide, unexpected deaths, deaths of children? Is there anything to be mindful of when providing support in that capacity?

[00:13:39] Mike O’Connell: I guess I’ll jump in that one, with my background, is just understand that it’s complicated grief. It’s not someone that most likely lived a ripe age and someone that was taken way too soon. And with some of those comes a taboo. And so just be very mindful of what the family could be experiencing, and again, less is [00:14:00] better.

[00:14:00] What I mean by that is, like Amber said, we think that sometimes quiet is uncomfortable, but just sit in a chair sometimes and just be there. You don’t have to say anything. Nothing’s gonna solve that situation. So just be there be there support, but just be a quiet presence in the room. 

[00:14:18] Pete Waggoner: I really like the term that you’ve used to be in tune with the family and emotions can be high, I’m sure, in those type of settings, which is normal. So then you as helping with the grief, need to be in touch with that too.

[00:14:37] Amber Miller: Absolutely. I think it’s important if you’re close with the family and you would consider yourself to be a supporter of the family. Being in tune with those emotions, being okay with the, shall we say, the ugly emotions that people start to, kind of constitute with the high intensity of those type of deaths.

[00:14:54] But also knowing when it’s above you and when it’s past you to say, ‘You know [00:15:00] what, this is past my scope or my ability. I think reaching out to these particular organizations, whether that’s a counselor or physician or you know, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, all of these things are there and, and available for us.’

[00:15:12] So being comfortable with providing those resources when needed. 

[00:15:16] Pete Waggoner: And where can I go locally? I’m sure there’s a certain website where I can find more ways to be helpful. 

[00:15:23] Mike O’Connell: That would be for some resources and then if again, like Amber talked about a scope, if it’s out of our scope, then we’ve got trained people that we affiliate with that we can certainly set up individual counseling, group counseling, or more supportive resources if that’s needed.

[00:15:44] Amber Miller: Yeah, I think our website’s a great resource. And just knowing what next steps to do for those that are in the supporting role. 

[00:15:52] Pete Waggoner: The two of you, thank you for taking the time out of your busy days to join us here to put yet another quality podcast down. [00:16:00] This was How can we help those that are grieving from Michael O’Connell and Amber Miller.

[00:16:03] I’m Pete Waggoner. Have yourself a great day. So long everybody.