Seeing a friend grieving can be one of the hardest things you can go through. This difficulty usually stems from your uncertainty of how you can best help a person experiencing grief.
Leading providers of professional psychology services say that there are simple, easy ways you can show your support for someone who is grieving. Although going the extra mile will definitely be appreciated, your friend will also be grateful for the little things you can do for him or her through this difficult time.
Below are six simple ways you can help a person who is grieving:
1. Be a good, active listener
Most of the time, the best thing you can do to help someone who is grieving is to simply listen.
To show that you are ready to listen, avoid saying “I know how you feel” or “I know what you’re going through.” These phrases often indicate that you will start talking and, thus, won’t listen or spend less time listening to your friend.
Instead, say “I can only imagine the pain you are going through” or “I don’t really know what to say, but I am always here for you.” These statements show that you are focused on the person grieving and that you are ready to listen to him or her.
And once your friend starts talking, you don’t have to think about what is the right thing to say. Simply holding your friend’s hand or giving him or her a sincere hug will help him or her in the healing process.
Although you cannot completely erase the pain of your friend’s grief, you can provide a great deal of comfort by giving him or her your time and attention.
2. Understand and accept all possible emotions
All people deal with and react to grief in different ways. Regardless of the way your friend is grieving, avoid being judgmental. Keep in mind that there is no correct or incorrect way to grieve. Each one grieves in his or her own way.
It is also important to remember that people also process grief at different times and speeds. If you see your friend looking alright, it doesn’t mean that he or she is not hurting. It may take your friend months or even a year to accept the loss and let out his or her emotions.
But whether your friend is grieving now or may appear to be fine, accept and understand him or her.
3. Give hope
Most people who are heartbroken often remember and are grateful to the persons who provided them hope and encouragement, and those who helped them make the transition from pain to a renewed sense of life.
However, be careful about being too casual. If you are too glib or even over-promise, you may make the bereaved person feel even more isolated.
To avoid this, choose your statements carefully. Say words of encouragement that acknowledge there is no quick way to overcome grief and, at the same time, also assert your confidence that things will improve.
4. Help out with some tasks
Don’t simply ask your friend if there’s anything you can do; help even if you weren’t requested to do so.
A grieving person will appreciate any help you can extend to him or her: doing the dishes or laundry, babysitting, or even grocery shopping. The more things you can do for your friend, the more you will be helping him or her out.
Extend your help in other ways as well: assist with making the funeral arrangements or looking for a lawyer to handle the estate. Doing these will help lift some burden from your friend’s shoulders and give him or her more time to process his or her feelings.
5. Be the point person
Aside from taking on additional tasks, take on another role as well: that of a point person.
A person in grief may find the number of people showing their love and support so overwhelming that he or she may start to feel like he or she is living in a fishbowl. Your friend may even forget to thank or inform others of any important updates.
Help your loved one regain some sense of privacy by being the point person. If your friend needs to send out invitations or “thank you” notes, volunteer to do this.
In case a lot of people want to say something to your friend, volunteer to take the information and pass it on to your friend. By doing so, you will help your friend avoid information overload. You can even filter the details so that your friend will accept them more positively.
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6. Always be available
Anticipate what your friend may need. Take note of things he or she may require such as medication refills or help with decluttering or cleaning the house after the funeral.
Don’t spend time asking your friend if he or she needs help with doing these; he or she certainly will. If you know the schedule, be there.
In addition, let the bereaved person know that you will check in often. Even if your friend is not yet ready to talk or be around others, assure him or her that you will always be there. He or she will find some comfort in your assurance that you are always available.
Lastly, be wary of any warning signs that your friend is falling into the pit of depression and may need professional help.
Unfortunately, many people cannot cope with grief well. If you think your friend needs a professional to talk to, encourage him or her to see one and accompany him or her during his or her sessions. And always be ready to listen to your friend when he or she is ready to talk about anything.