Depending on the helper’s relationship with the survivor (friend/family/neighbor/stranger), a follow up call or visit is an important part of emotional first aid. Many survivors report that immediately following the initial tragedy they received lots of care and attention. However, in the days and weeks following the initial impact, survivors noticed that family members, neighbors, and coworkers seem to disappear. The reasons for this lack of follow up by helpers are numerous, but the most common reason is helplessness. Helpers don’t follow up with survivors because they don’t know what to say or do.
How to Follow Up with a Survivor
Practice Emotional First Aid During the Follow Up Meeting(s)
Ask the survivor "How are you doing now? It’s been two weeks since John died."
Validate what the survivor is saying
Ask Gentle Questions
Invite the survivor to Reminisce
Provide Practical Support During Your Follow Up Meeting(s)
There are many practical ways of helping a survivor in the aftermath of a tragedy. These practical ways of helping may include providing a ride, helping to arrange a garage sale, providing meals, and helping the survivor attend to all of the details that usually arise after a death has occurred.
Helping the Survivor Identify Follow Up Assistance
There are many follow up services for survivors of tragedy including professional counselors, support groups, and helpful literature. Many survivors express a desire for these resources in the aftermath of a tragedy. However, they are not familiar with the "helping system", and they do not have the energy to try to figure out how to obtain the resources they need. You can help the survivor identify these resources in their community. Following are suggestions you can make to the survivor about how to locate a counselor, support group or helpful reading material.
Form a Helping Partnership with the survivor.
You don’t want to take over the search for follow up assistance, nor do you want to let the survivor fend for himself. The best approach, if the survivor agrees, is for you to assist in the researching of sources of assistance (phone numbers, costs, types of help...), and then encourage the survivor to make the actual phone calls.
Remember that healing from a tragic event takes time... maybe a lifetime. Don’t expect the survivor to get over it quickly.
In providing follow up care, don’t take over. Ensure that the survivor stays in control of the type of assistance he wants and gets.
Don’t expect the survivor to contact you for follow up assistance. Don’t say "call me if you need me". The survivor may be too tired or distraught to reach out to you.
Just because you suspect you can’t do anything for the survivor, reach out and demonstrate that you care.
Remember that survivors want to talk about their deceased loved one. Don’t avoid listening to the survivor about his loved one. By encouraging the survivor to talk about the deceased you won’t cause more pain rather you will help him feel less alone.