National Grief Awareness Day is celebrated in the United States on August 30th of every year. As National Day declares, National Grief Awareness Day “is dedicated to raising awareness of the myriad ways in which individuals cope with loss. It offers resources to those going through personal losses and reminds us to support people we know who are grieving.” National Grief Awareness Day was established in 2014 by Angie Cartwright, who was inspired to establish the day after the loss of her mother.
It is a day that is intended to help people better understand grief and be able to grieve as needed. Though many of us have felt grief at one time or another in our lives, everyone experiences grief differently, and this grief awareness day can help bring more national attention to the very real experience of grief and the ways that it can change a person’s life. So, here are a few facts about grief, and what you can do to help friends and family who are grieving.
Understand that Everyone Handles Grief Differently
Grief is an immensely unique experience, even amongst those who have suffered similar types of losses. Depending on the relationship with the deceased, and individual emotional makeup, everyone’s experience of grief varies, so it is important to avoid a “one size fits all” approach to grief support.
As the Grief Recovery Method shares, “Grief is based on emotions. Grief is based on your personal relationship to who or what was lost. Each person and relationship is different, which means that how we deal with each loss will be different as well.” As you experience grief, or support someone who is grieving, the understanding that grief may manifest differently from person to person can help you process the loss with increased kindness and understanding.
For example, there are many people who find talking about their loss to be therapeutic and helpful. The process of sharing about their loss can help them find acceptance of what has changed in their life. But, as Asma Rehman shares, “Talking about grief can help you find support when you need it most. You can find out which people in your life are supportive and comforting and lean on them. You can join grief groups (online or in real life) to find other people who know exactly what you’re going through. You can rely on the wisdom and experience of people who have gone through their own grief process and absorb what they have to teach. A sense of community can be extremely healing.”
You might also notice that many people attempt to stay very busy in the immediate aftermath of loss. If someone has lost a parent or sibling, the bulk of planning the funeral, preparing the family home, or executing the will might fall on their shoulders. Trying to finalize all these tasks can make it very tempting to fall into the pattern of staying busy to keep grief at arm’s length. What’s Your Grief has a very helpful article, Self Care in Grief: The Myth of Staying Busy,” that explains how “When experiencing grief keeping busy only serves as a distraction that buries the pain underneath every activity you can pile on top of it. It only helps to make one more day go by which in itself connects to the myth that time heals all wounds.” While it may be a tactic to employ during certain seasons, be careful not to avoid the grief process by staying busy.
Still other people might feel at a loss of how to cope with their grief. Grief can be a crazy paradox of extreme experiences. Some people might struggle to sleep, while other people might sleep all day. Some people might stop eating altogether, while others may use food as a coping mechanism. Some people might use extreme exercise as a way to numb the pain, while others find they cannot even muster up the energy to take a walk. Some people might need tons of help from friends and family, while others refuse even the slightest bit of assistance. The most important thing to know about grief is that all of this is normal. Grief is a crazy roller coaster of feelings, and accepting that can help you on the crazy ride.
There are Many Ways to Help People
If you are supporting someone who is grieving, one of the most helpful things you can offer are acts of service. It can be impossible to accomplish daily tasks when you are grieving, so offer to help provide them practical assistance. A few ideas include…
- Cooking them meals
- Helping with childcare
- Cleaning their home or hiring a crew to clean it
- Helping with yard work
- Doing their laundry
- Picking up groceries
- Running miscellaneous errands
- Helping with funeral preparations
- Setting up a meal delivery schedule through Take them a Meal
You can also help serve your grieving friend by being a listening ear. Sometimes, what a grieving person needs most of all is someone to be present. They need a friend who can reliably listen to them, sit with them in the heartache, and accept their grieving process with love and an open heart. Also be sure to remember that although your friend is grieving, they still might need to laugh about a funny joke, watch junk tv, or spend time thinking about something other than grief. It is ok for you to join them in those moments where they need a friend to laugh with them, eat ice cream together, or binge watch a junk TV show.
Gifts you can Send
You can also help a friend in grief by sending them a thoughtful and meaningful personalized gift. Sometimes it is hard to express your support fully with words, and in those moments, a support gift can mean so much. We love sending a personalized grief gift to someone who has lost a loved one. Our collection of personalized gifts at laurelbox is filled with so many unique and beautiful memorial gifts that can be customized with their loved one’s name, handwriting, footprint, or handprint.
One of my favorite gifts is our customized Shining Bright Birthday Candle, which is meant to be lit on a loved one’s birthday. This gift is meaningful because it honors the tension of grief and celebration that exist on a loved one’s birthday after they have passed away, and offers the family a chance to celebrate their loved one’s life while also mourning their loss. Many families choose to light the candle on the birthday, share some stories about their life, and honor their loved one. Each candle is hand poured by our amazing staffer, Gabrielle.
The candle smells just like a vanilla birthday cake, and is customized with the name of a loved one. They are a super special gift, and we love how much they mean to our customers.
We also love sending our personalized Loved & Remembered Memorial Wind Chimes. Many customers choose to have the phrase, “Hear the wind and think of me,” engraved onto the chimes, along with their loved one’s name. This is one of the MOST beautiful and meaningful gifts in our shop. Each and every chime is handmade with love by Beth, our Product and Personalization Specialist.
You can also choose to send your friend a curated gift box. These gifts include a combination of items specifically curated to go together as a special experience. One of my favorite gifts for a grieving friend on National Grief Day is our “Take Time for You” gift set. It includes everything someone needs to create a meaningful tea ritual, and the herbal tea included in the gift box is designed to provide support for someone who is grieving. I also love the “Comfort and Support” self care gift box, filled with items that are designed to help someone find a few moments of peace after loss.
I also love our Keepsake curated gift collection, which offers some beautiful options, from curated custom candle gift sets, to memorial gift sets, and comforting gifts for someone who has lost their mom or dad. We also have special curated gifts for someone who has lost a child, lost a baby to stillbirth or miscarriage, or lost a family member or spouse.
We hope this list of ways to support someone during National Grief Awareness Day was a helpful guide as you work to be a supportive friend!