Helping a Friend in Grief
How Can You Help
A friend has experienced the death of someone loved. You want to help, but you are not sure how to go about it. This points below will guide you in ways to turn your cares and concerns into positive actions.
Listen With Your Heart
Helping begins with your ability to be an active listener. Your physical presence and desire to listen without judging are critical helping tools. Don't worry so much about what you will say just concentrate on listening to the words that are being shared with you.
Give your friend permission to express his or her feelings without fear of criticism. Learn from your friend; don't instruct or set expectations about how he or she should respond. Never say "I know just how you feel." You don't think about your helper role as someone who "walks with," not "behind" or "in front of' the one who is bereaved.
Words, particularly clichés, can be extremely painful for a grieving friend. Clichés are trite comments often intended to diminish the loss by providing simple solutions to difficult realities. Comments like "You are holding up so well," "Time will heal all wounds," "Think of all you still have to be thankful for" or "Just be happy that he's out of his pain" are not constructive. Instead, they hurt and make a friend's journey through grief more difficult.
Understanding the Uniqueness of Grief
Keep in mind that your friend's grief is unique. No one will respond to the death of someone loved in exactly the same way. While it may be possible to talk about similar phases shared by grieving people. Everyone is different and shaped by experiences in his or her life.
Offer Practical Help
Preparing food, washing clothes, cleaning the house or answering the telephone are just a few of the practical ways of showing you care. And, just as with your presence, this support is needed at the time of the death and in the weeks and months ahead.
Your presence at the funeral is important. As a ritual, the funeral provides an opportunity for you to express your love and concern at this time of need. As you pay tribute to a life that is now passed, you have a chance to support grieving friends and family. At the funeral, a touch of your hand, a look in your eye or even a hug often communicates more than any words could ever say.
Write a Personal Note
Sympathy cards express your concern, but there is no substitute for your personal written words. What do you say? Share a favorite memory of the person who died. Relate the special qualities that you valued about him or her. These words will often be a loving gift to your grieving friend, words that will be reread and remembered for years.
Be Aware of Holidays and Anniversaries
Your friend may have a difficult time during special occasions like holidays and anniversaries. These events emphasize the absence of the person who has died. Respect this pain as a natural extension of the grief process. Learn from it. And, most importantly, never try to take away the hurt.
Understanding the Importance of the Loss
Remember that the death of someone loved is a shattering experience. As a result of this death, your friend's life is under reconstruction. Considering the significance of the loss, be gentle and compassionate in all of your helping efforts.