We all experience grief at some stage in our lives. Whether you have experienced it or not and want to help a friend/ loved one who is grieving, there is one important thing to remember. Everyone grieves differently. Some people like to talk about it and others like to avoid the topic. However, people’s views and attitudes towards grief can change as they go through the grieving process.
I know you’re here, reading this, to learn the right thing to say. However, the most important thing to know is that the most important thing to do is to be there. Even just being there to give someone a hug or just your physical presence alone can be more reassuring than you’ll ever know. Remember this is something that you can’t fix. However, you can open your arms and heart towards the person.
After we lose a loved one, friends can disappear into the woodwork never to be seen or heard from again. This is more hurt for the bereaved person. So, reassure them that you are there for them and that you’re not going anywhere and that you care about them.
It’s easy to be there for your friend shortly after a loss. However, many times the grief won’t have sunk in yet at this stage. The much tougher time in the months and years afterwards. It takes a lot of adapting to get used to no longer having their loved one in their lives. It is difficult, but time will help them to adapt. Time will help the raw emotion to dull. However, the tidal waves of grief may take some time to calm down.
A very kind gesture is to try and purchase a funeral gift and remember anniversaries such as the birthday of the person who has passed away and the anniversary of their death. A quick phone call, message or even meeting up with that person on that day will mean a lot to your friend. However, don’t beat yourself up if you forget. You can only do your best.
Celebrating the life of the person your friend has lost can be as simple as reminiscing and talking about them or by giving your friend a memorial gift. Obviously, it’s important to respect how your friend wants to remember their loved one. Some people may want to remember their loved one privately and some may want to talk about them every minute of every day. The safest thing to do is to follow their lead. Some people may feel guilty for talking about their loved one. So, remember to remind them that you are there for them every so often.
Don’t be afraid to mention the person they lost. You may think to steer clear of the subject but trust me; your friend will want to talk. Memories are all that remain after a loss and talking about the person who died really does help to keep them alive. Personally, I would steer clear from saying, “Everything happens for a reason,” or, “It is God’s will.” Even someone with the strongest faith will find that hard to swallow. Consider what your friend’s beliefs and values are before offering comforting words.
Deep loss can change us, I know I’m not the same person I used to be. Your friend may seem fine one day and angry or depressed the next. It’s all part of the grieving cycle, which is long lasting and has no logic or pattern. So, don’t take it personally if your friend seems distant or has no wish to socialize from time to time. He or she is just learning to cope. Sometimes grief can be unbearable and people simply cannot cope. The world may be too difficult of a place to be in sometimes and this is ok. Just reassure your friend that you are there and that getting professional help if they require it, isn’t a flaw. It doesn’t make them “weak”. Being able to say that something isn’t right takes great courage.
The fact that you have listened to me for so long shows what an amazing friend you are. You can support your friend through this challenging time. However, remember that this is their grief and their hurdle and you can only do your best to support them. Having someone supportive at a challenging time like this will mean the world to your friend. Strong friendships are built through both good and tough times. Lastly, remember that if supporting your friend becomes too much there is also support out there for you.
Best of luck to you both!