I work as a first responder in a wilderness setting. One of the things I do is work around immediate death. What do I mean by immediate death? I mean I am one of the first people to have contact with family members and friends who watched their loved one pass. This is a fragile time.
What I notice most about those who have just lost someone is that they immediately stop worrying about themselves. They could be half way up a mountain in a snowstorm and suddenly their own well being is not a priority. I find the most effective way for me to help these people is help them help themselves.
That sound cliché I know, but I mean it in all seriousness. I carry extra food and water with me. I carry extra rain gear and warm clothes, and I bring that person in from the cold. This can be as simple as saying “I’m thirsty, what about you?” To stopping and telling the person that it is time we put our jackets.
I realize that it is only a small percentage of people are with their loved ones in a wilderness setting when they pass, but this lesson can be extrapolated to many other situations. Recently a friend’s of mine mother died. Her father, in obvious distress, quit paying his bills. This wasn’t because he had no money, but rather he did it because didn’t know how to continue without his wife.
It is good for survivors to have a task. Continuing to live is the perfect task, although it has to be presented in the right way. Helping the bereaved continue to do the daily chores of life is important. Cleaning the house, getting a hair cut, walking the dog can be small doable steps for someone who has just lost a loved one. The bereaved may not see such insignificant tasks as important, but the outsider can. Helping the recently bereaved complete even the most mundane of chores can give them a goal –a purpose – and in the wake of a death, everyone is looking for purpose.