How Can I Help a Grieving Friend?
Every day we hear of a tragedy of some type, and every day someone is losing a loved one. Someone you know may be experiencing grief – perhaps the loss of a loved one, perhaps another type of loss – and you want to help. The fear of making things worse may encourage you to do nothing. Yet you do not wish to appear to be uncaring.
Remember that it is better to try to do something, inadequate as you may feel than to do nothing at all. Don’t attempt to sooth or stifle the emotions of the griever. Tears and anger are an important part of the healing process. Grief is not a sign of weakness. It is the result of a strong relationship and deserves the honor of strong emotion.
When supporting someone in their grief the most important thing is to simply listen. Grief is a very confusing process; expressions of logic are lost on the griever. Be present, show that you care, listen.
You want to assist your friend down the path of healing. They will find their own way down that path, but they need a helping hand, an assurance that they are not entirely alone on their journey. It does not matter that you do not understand the details, your presence is enough. Do some act of kindness. There are always ways to help. The smallest good deed is better than the grandest good intention.
Here are a few suggestions that may help you.
- Just be a good listener. People need to talk a lot about the death of their loved one. The more they talk, the more they process the reality.
- Don’t be judgmental. There is no timetable for completing the grief process. People resent being told “You should be over it by now.” Moving toward acceptance is a lengthy process even if people return to work quickly.
- Talk about the person who died. Don’t be afraid to bring up the subject for fear of making the family feel worse. They are already feeling bad and think about their loved one most of the time. They’ll know that this person was also important to you and not forgotten.
- Inquire about the well-being of all family members and loved ones–men as well as women. Men are frequently presumed to be okay when, in fact, they are not.
- Stay in touch. People will not have the energy to call you. Reach out and make the contact by phone or a personal visit. Invite the bereaved family out for a meal.
- Don’t use clichés. Be honest with your own feelings. If you have trouble thinking of something to say, just be there for the person. You can extend a touch, or send a card. Saying too little is better than too much.
- Look for an immediate need and fill it. This could be shopping, preparing a meal, answering the phone, babysitting, helping with out of town relatives. Check back often to offer support.
- Try to understand the grieving process and realize that everyone grieves differently.