Death: it’s the inevitable fact of life. It’s something we all have to struggle with at some point in our lives, whether that’s the death of one of our loved ones, or facing up to our own mortality. It sucks, and there’s no getting away from it. Grief and loss are only a few steps away.
While it’s difficult dealing with our own grief, there will be times when we have to support somebody else through the grief they are experiencing. While we suggested friends in the article title, it might also apply to another family member or work colleague. How do we help them in their time of need?
Let’s look at what not to do first.
Don’t minimise the pain they are feeling and tell that time is a great healer. Time does heal, but when somebody is suffering in the here and now, the future seems a long way away.
Don’t tell the person “I know how you feel.” You might have experience of grief in your own life, but we all process it differently.
Don’t avoid the person because you are afraid you will feel awkward. Considering what we have said thus far, with recommendations on what not to say, it’s common for many people to avoid being around the grieving person in fear of saying something inappropriate and insensitive. However, you might only feel guilty if you avoid them, and to be a true friend, you really should overcome your self-doubts and be with them.
Don’t hurry the person into moving on with their lives, such as getting them to make the most of online dating after the death of a partner. The person will need time to adjust to the change in their life, and you need to work to their time frame, and not to your own in an attempt to help them.
Here’s what you should do
Be present in their life, letting them know that you are there to talk to if they need somebody. Knowing that you are on the other end of a phone, or even on the other end of their sofa, will provide some solace through their dark days ahead.
Offer practical support where you can, such as visiting the local undertakers with them, or lending a hand with food after a funeral service. This practical help will show your friend that you care, and will lift them of some of the burdens they have to deal with.
Be a listening ear and offer your shoulder to cry on. If you don’t have anything helpful to say, or if you are worried about saying the wrong thing, just being there to listen can be enough for your friend. These simple actions are often worth more than a thousand words and can be a comfort for your grieving friend.
Point them towards other sources of help. There may be community groups in your area, for example, where people get together to talk about the grief they are suffering. You might also point your friend towards grief charities, or even a counselling service if you notice they are struggling to manage their emotions. Don’t force your friend to do any of these things, but rather gently talk to them about the possibility of extra help if you feel they require it.
We have given you a few ideas on what you should and shouldn’t do, but what about you? Do you have any ideas of your own, perhaps based on your experience? Let us know, giving us all the tools to care for those people in our lives who need support when they are grieving. Take care, and thanks for reading.
*This is a collaborative post.