A year ago today, I posted about grief on the first anniversary of my grandfather’s death. My family received many of the blessings below and today felt like the right time to share that post again. The current list starts with one very important addition that someone shared in the comments of the original post. I’d love your help in making this list even better. Please share your thoughts if you see something missing. There will never be a shortage of grieving souls to serve.

5 Ways to Serve a Grieving Soul

  1. Allow them to grieve on their own terms. As one reader explained, “There is no set time frame when someone should no longer grieve. There is no specific way. It is important to listen and respect their grief process.” I’d also add to not try to make their grief process look like your own. What worked for you, may not work for them.
  2. Fill in the gaps of their life. Picture the person grieving as a large rock in a glass jar. The glass jar represents their life before the loss. The people that are supporting them during the initial phase of loss (before and directly after the funeral) are the sand that will be poured in the jar until it is full. This image is important because it will help guide you on how to serve them. They will need help with basic tasks like having meals available, getting space to rest appropriately, and handling a number of routine chores that inevitably seem hard to focus on. An example of this would be to make sure any pets they might have are taken care of or filling their prescriptions. Look for gaps and fill them in. It is likely you will have to identify and suggest the areas to serve for them. At this stage, they may be too numb and detached to ask for help.
  3. Help them re-frame what “doing better” looks like. As the grief process moves along, the intense periods of sadness and despair tend to become less frequent but the intensity of the grief (once it reappears) can be the same or stronger. This can be alarming to the person in grief as they “thought they were getting better.” Be there to remind them that these episodes of intense sadness are normal and that longer time between episodes is a sign they are “getting better”.
  4. Share your joy. It is a human instinct to heal the soul. Grieving people aren’t sad by choice; they want to feel better. Don’t be afraid to share happy stories or engage them in fun activities. Check in to make sure you are doing that respectfully and on a pace they feel comfortable with, but actively try to show them the counterpoint to grief. Love and enjoy them.
  5. Commit to a longer healing process. You never get over losing a person you love so in some ways grief is never done. I’ve talked to many people that have experienced significant periods of grief and it is clear that the one-year mark tends to be viewed as a disappointing milestone. Many consciously or subconsciously assumed that they would feel better adjusted after a year had gone by. It was a reasonable assumption as they had gotten through all the “first” holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. What they often found was that the second year (and the second set of holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries) were even more bitter because they had expected to feel better by then. They also found themselves with less support as people had assumed they’d gotten them through the hardest part already. Make a commitment to stay very present and supportive for a minimum of two years (and likely even longer).

What would you add?



“Work is hard. Distractions are plentiful. And time is short.”

– Adam Hochschild


The first week of January is when many people start their New Year with new goals to eat better and/or eat less. Conventional wisdom tells us that if our goal is to lose weight one key component to success will be to focus on taking in less calories. Resisting high calorie and high fat foods helps reach the goal of weight loss. But what if our goal isn’t to lose weight? What if our goal is to start listening to our calling? We may need to go on a “distraction diet”.

The 10 questions below are meant to help you assess your current level of focus. It will also help you identify energy drains or distractions that may be impeding your progress against goals. As you answer each question make sure to remind yourself that the answer will only be known by you (unless you choose to tell someone). Being honest with yourself will help you identify the things you want more of and the things you want less of. You may also want things to stay just as they are. They are only “distractions” if you’d rather be focused elsewhere.

Are you distracted?

  1. How focused am I on my purpose?
    • Laser focused: I spend almost all my free time thinking about my purpose and working on specific goals.
    • Locked and loaded: I spend a significant amount of my free time thinking about my purpose and working on specific goals.
    • In pursuit: I think about my purpose frequently and occasionally find time to set and work on specific goals.
    • All thoughts, no action: I think about my purpose occasionally but am rarely able to set goals or take steps toward them.
    • Fully distracted: I can barely find any time to think about my purpose and have no goals to act upon.
  2. Do I want to be more focused on my purpose than I currently am?
  3. Do I have enough mental energy to think about my purpose?
  4. If less distracted, could I make enough time in my life to plan goals?
  5. If less distracted, could I make enough time in my life to act upon my goals?
  6. Are there relationships in my life that use up time/energy I’d rather spend on my goals?
  7. Are there leisure activities in my life that use up time/energy I’d rather spend on my goals?
  8. How much time a day would I like to use for taking in information (news, social media, reading online articles, etc.)?
  9. What percentage of the information that I take in daily can be used towards my goals?
  10. How much do I want to increase the daily time I allocate towards information gathering and action items related to my goals?

What questions would you add to this list?