How to Help a Grieving Friend
You cannot take someones grief away, but you can be there for them. Though we all handle grief differently, people who are grieving often have a need to share their thoughts and feelings.
Listen, talking helps people process their grief. Some people do not raise the subject of the death because they don’t want to burden others with their grief. Don’t be afraid to bring up the subject of the death, you can be sure it is on their minds and your recognition of this reaffirms that it is okay for them to feel the way they feel. If they don’t feel like talking about it, gently let them know that you are available if and when they need to talk.
Do not pretend to understand how they feel, or try to make it better, you can’t. Grieving is a normal process, the best you can do is to be there for them and listen to them without offering solutions or advice. Allow them the space to grieve.
Do not offer false comfort, comments such as, “he’s in a better place now” or “at least you still have your other child” are not helpful and can make the grieving person feel even worse. There is no new baby that can replace one that died, and new puppy that can replace an old friend. Every spirit is unique and to lose one that you loved can be intensely painful.
Offer practical help, like assistance with household chores or errands.
Let them talk it through. Being attentive to a persons feelings and needs while they are dealing with loss is the greatest gift you can give.
If your grieving friend begins to cry while talking to you, rather than hugging their tears away, it is sometimes better to lay a caring hand on their shoulder to show your concern and allow their tears and thoughts to continue to flow. Tell them its okay to cry and give them the opportunity and physical space to get it out of their system without smothering them. Crying is a healthy way to release emotional stress.
Be patient, only after they have had the chance to give vent to their anger or sadness, it can be a good thing to lift the mood by distracting them with a different subject or even some humour to break their tension. After you have given them ample opportunity to talk and process their grief, it is good to leave them on a lighter note. Change the subject and have a good laugh about some arbitrary thing that happened, it isn’t good to end the conversation and leave them feeling low. If they have had a good opportunity to vent their sorrow and you successfully lift the mood before you end the conversation, they are likely to stay feeling good for some time before their grief catches up with them again. The gaps between grieving will become longer as they recover.
Invite them for a sunny walk in a park nearby. Aside from releasing the body’s own good hormones (endorphins), a brisk walk outdoors can be stimulating, energizing and refreshing.