How to Help A Grieving Friend:
The majority of us have gone through a season of grief personally. The loss of a friend or loved one can be unbearable and extremely difficult to go through. It can also be very challenging to help a friend through his or her own loss. If you’re like me, your first instinct is to jump in, hero style, tights on, bright red cape flowing in the wind, ready to fix everything and save the day. I’m a “fixer”, a “make it better” type of person.
As much as we might like to, the loss of a loved one is not something that can be “fixed”. There are no magical words that will suddenly make it all better. No selfless task or gift given that can change what has happened. Even though you can’t “fix” things, as a friend, there are several things you can do to simply help.
It is important to know and be realistic about what you’re walking into and be ready to handle anything.
As people we were all uniquely designed. Often times, we think differently, act differently and even grieve differently then our friends. Don’t be caught off guard if your friend seems to have completely fallen apart. For that matter, don’t be surprised if they seem to have everything handled and together. Just be ready to be there for them during this time in whatever way they need.
Help them to remember that no matter how “alone” they may feel, that they’re not alone.
One of the most important things you can do as a friend is to simply be there. This can be as simple as sending a comforting text message or calling to check in. And at times, be available to just simply sit with them. Hold them when they cry and be a comfort. Listen when they talk – not just with the intent to respond, but to actually hear what they’re feeling and help them through it. Some people may need time alone to process what has happened and pull things together. This is okay. You can still be there for them without being in the same room.
Help when you can and tread lightly when taking initiative to do obvious tasks.
In times of great loss, it can often be hard for those grieving to simply function as they would normally on a day-to-day basis. This can be a great opportunity for friends to step in and help with those very basic tasks, such as running errands, buying groceries, doing the laundry, cooking or cleaning. All of which can be a blessing or a curse. Sometimes when people fall apart, they need and want that extra help, even when they aren’t willing to ask for it. Often times though, losing a loved one can make you feel like you’ve lost all control and as such, you don’t want to give up control of even those simple tasks, like doing your own laundry.
Don’t get offended.
Grief is one of the hardest emotions to process and while some people may have a good handle on it, others may react in anger or simply out of pain, sometimes even lashing out at those closest. Be patient. I repeat, be patient. Remember that this is one of the hardest things your friend may face and they need you.
Be Positive, But Not Too Positive
Don’t tell them “It’s all going to be okay.”
There is a fine line between “encouraging” someone and giving them one-liners that are supposed to make everything okay. The last thing a grieving person wants to hear is “it’s all going to be okay.” It’s not. Things are going to be different and while time can help heal the wounds of loss, it will never change the fact that their loved one is gone. Be sympathetic to that fact. When we lose someone, we need a friend who will encourage and uplift us, and help us to get to the point where we finally believe things will actually one day be okay again.
Don’t give up.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. You may have to work through just exactly how you can best help your friend and it may take some time. Don’t give up. And even if they push you away, remember they still need you. They just may not be able to recognize that at the moment.