Losing a loved one is devastating. That’s why finding a way to help a friend who is going through the grieving process can be so intimidating.
It’s natural to want to be there for your friend in every way you can, but it’s also normal to be afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing. To help you out, we put together a few tips that will give you more confidence.
1. Take time to better understand grief.
Even those of us who have experienced grief firsthand can benefit from this step. The grieving process is often more complex than we realize, so it’s important to recognize that your friend will be going through a wide range of emotions from sadness and depression to anxiety and anger.
These powerful emotions can lead to physical symptoms such as digestive issues and fatigue. So the more you understand the process of grief and how it affects people, the better you’ll comprehend what your friend is going through. This will also help you recognize the specific areas in which your friend could use some help.
2. Talk less, listen more.
This one is tough. Seeing your friend going through such intense sadness can make you want to give them words of encouragement. Alternatively, you might be so afraid of saying the wrong thing that you avoid them altogether.
The good news is that for most people, your presence is enough. The lingering silence that can happen as your friend sits with their feelings may tempt you to speak up, but don’t be so quick to say something for the sake of breaking the silence.
It may not seem like it, but these quiet moments while sitting together are often exactly what they need. Plus, it’s important to remember that giving a grieving friend space to talk out the thoughts in their head will likely be far more helpful than anything you could say.
3. Allow them to feel whatever they are feeling.
Losing a loved one is difficult without the added fear of others judging you. Even though crying is a natural part of the grieving process, it can be scary to be vulnerable in front of others, even a friend. That’s why it’s so important to be supportive when they’re having a tangibly emotional moment.
You may want to try and cheer them up, but be careful. It can be nice to have someone attempt to make you smile, but they need to allow themselves to feel their “negative” emotions. Instead of trying to “fix” how they’re feeling, simply give them permission to show their emotions without judgement and reassure them if they apologize for being so emotional.
4. Offer practical help.
When someone is grieving, it can be difficult for them to take care of their basic needs. Having someone offer to assist them with things like cooking, running errands, or cleaning up around the house can make a huge difference.
Depending on the person, you may find it better to state your intentions rather than asking for permission. That’s because, when asked, there’s a greater chance they’ll turn you down out of fear that they’re being a burden or that you’re acting out of obligation. On the contrary, when you offer help directly, they may feel more confident in your support.
5. Remember to stay in touch, especially on important dates.
As time passes, it can be easy to forget that the grieving process never really ends. Certain dates like wedding anniversaries, birthdays, and the day of their loved one’s passing may reignite those feelings of sadness and loneliness.
Make sure to keep note of those dates so you can check in on your friend in whatever way you see fit. Some could benefit from a phone call, while others could use some in-person company. What’s most important is that they feel remembered, seen, and loved.
There is no one way to grieve. The process is complicated and full of emotions that can be hard to process. At the end of the day, what matters most is that your loved ones feel supported.
Share this article with a friend or family member who could use these tips.
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