It’s hard to know how to help someone deep in grief and loss.
As professional organizers, we work with many people and families who are in these heavy seasons. But right now, we can only help people close to us through home organizing in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Loss is everywhere though.
In this blog, we’ve pulled together some insights that might help you if you want to support someone you know and don’t quite know how.
Loss comes in so many forms.
They could be struggling with the death of a loved one, a divorce, a miscarriage, the loss of abilities through illness or an accident, or simply the difficulties of age complications.
Grief looks different for everyone.
And it’s all so sensitive and personal with no quick fix. It’s easy to feel helpless.
When loss happens, there is often an initial outpouring of support.
But as time goes on, most of that support goes away. Often, grievers feel pressure to move on, and it leaves them feeling more alone than ever.
How do you prevent that feeling?
A personal story
One of our organizers lost her husband suddenly to cancer a few years ago. It was tragic and painful. She and her children carry on without his physical presence despite symbols of their former life together all around their home.
Her personal experience has really benefited our team – helping us better support clients through grief and loss too.
Below are some of her helpful insights into the grieving experience and the home environment.
We’ve also included some practical ideas to support someone in your life.
The regular cadence of life seems to stop. Everything feels harder.
Grief changes the connection with time. It changes everything, really.
Suddenly, days no longer feel as they once did. Entire years can dissolve in an instant.
Even the smallest tasks feel insurmountable.
Those piles quickly turn into mountains!
Asking for help doesn’t feel possible.
It doesn’t feel like an option without an easy fix. Besides, everything is overwhelming.
To make it worse, accepting help can feel like a failure. It feels like an impossible situation.
Grievers often think:
“I should just be able to take care of this laundry. Why is this so hard?!“
“They’ll think I’m silly for finding this so difficult still.”
“People will think I’ve really lost it if they see what my house looks like.“
The reality is . . . there is no “getting over” grief.
But there is a way to:
Ongoing support well after the loss is really important to being sensitive to this transition.
It’s a process with no timeline. It’s truly a “take a village” opportunity to work in small ways to help them move into a more peaceful home life.
Amidst the chaotic feeling of grief, decluttering and organizing can give people:
Removing emotional triggers often really helps.
There are many emotional triggers mixed in these piles.
We might have some idea of what items are triggers, like a picture. But there will also be items that we won’t know are a trigger, like a book that was a gift with a special memory.
Going through these piles with someone who will be patient and supportive can be life changing.
Offer to remove the trigger items from the home for them.
This could be:
Just getting these items out of the house is huge.
Otherwise, these items might just end up in another pile for another day.
Be careful not to pressure them to remove the items too quickly though if they’re not ready yet. Just offer it again at another visit.
The goal = to offer peace.
Some people welcome a whirlwind of help cleaning and tidying, while others may want a slower more intentional process. That’s ok – no judgment!
Offer to be there for the person for a set amount of time however they need you.
A helpful thing to say:
“You’re going through so much – it makes sense that you haven’t had time to keep up on your space. Let’s just see what we can get done together today.”
It’s easy to say “How can I help you?” but that can be the worst! They might not know.
When someone is overwhelmed, it can be really hard to answer such a broad question.
Instead, offer very specific ways you can help. It’s best to offer 3 choices at a time for them to pick from.
Here are a few ideas to ease into it:
Here’s how you can send this in a text:
I know you’re going through a tough season right now. I know it’s personal and I respect your privacy. I’d like to make your daily life a bit easier.
Could I stop by on ______ and help you with one of these things?
Which would be most helpful?
- Restock your fridge.
- Tidy up the kitchen & wash dishes.
- Do a load of laundry.
We don’t even have to talk when I stop by! I would really like to help however I can.
Please know that I’m rooting for you during this difficult time.”
Remind them that you see them navigating something impossible.
Let them guide your time together. Allow them to pick what they need help with – it might not be what you think is most important.
Certain things might feel harder to get done than others, so it’s best if they choose where they need help. Be cautious not to overwhelm them even more.
And don’t expect them to go overboard with gratitude. They might have a hard time being overly expressive even though they really appreciate it in their heart.
It’s really lonely to hold grief.
You might find yourself holding a special memory of a loved one who is no longer there. Listen and be present if they want to share that memory.
Be careful not to compare your past losses to theirs.
Phrases like “I know what it feels like” can feel really tough when all pain is so personal. It’s ok for them to rest in their grief. We can’t fix their pain, and we shouldn’t try to push them past it either.
Take their lead in what they would like to share. Don’t ask probing questions.
Sometimes just taking a moment of silence or asking if they want a hug is best.
Finish your time together by thanking them for allowing you to be there with them. It makes a big difference!
Our nonprofit, Sponsor A Space, put together a very helpful guide for these moments:
10 Ways to Help A Neighbor with Emotional Clutter
We know that helping people work on decluttering either during emotional times or emotional items is tough, so this free downloadable guide helps you navigate that important time of help.
We hope that you find ways to reach out to those who are grieving more with these tips.
Sponsor A Space provides practical relief for those in our community who need it most.
Our nonprofit is a community-sponsored organization that offers organizing support services to Colorado Springs residents who have been identified as needs-based by social services partners.
These projects are only possible through your support!
Become a donor today at: SponsorASpace.com. Even just $20 makes a difference.
Stay tuned on Instagram with the hashtag #sponsoraspace for all of our updates!
At Joyful Spaces, we provide low-stress organizing sessions in Colorado Springs to help you conquer your clutter, and transform your space to make it creatively efficient, so you can get back to what you actually love!
We know that you want to be an organized person who has it all together.
In order to do that, you need to less stress from mess.
The problem is — you're surrounded by clutter, which makes you feel overwhelmed. We believe that getting your space organized shouldn't be so hard.
You shouldn't have to do it alone either!
May 12, 2023