How to Help a Friend Through the Grieving Process

By: Dan Ciha
Thursday, May 26, 2016

When someone we care about loses someone that is even closer to them, such as a family member we’ve never met, or good friend we’re not familiar with, it’s hard to know what to say. The bereaved is suffering from a severe emotional blow, and while we can sympathize with the pain, it’s not our pain and loss. It can be difficult to watch someone we care about experience this, but it’s also a necessary part of the grieving process before they can move forward and begin the healing process. But what if you want to help during this time of loss? What can you do?

Be Receptive

A person’s grief may take many forms, and everyone approaches it in their own way, taking their own time. You may find that your friend’s grief takes the form of needing to talk it out, having someone to share thoughts and feelings with. If that’s the case, you can be there as the sympathetic ear.

On the other hand, your friend’s grief may be more internal as they deal with it in their own hearts and minds. They may not need to talk, but they may need the presence of someone that cares for them to watch over them. In this case, it’s not an ear they need to hear them talk, but a shoulder to lean on. You can do this for them too.

Whatever way they express their grief, one of the best things you can do is help in letting them experience this process. Find out what they need from you and do that, or be that.

Take Initiative

When someone experiences the death of someone close, it’s a violent disruption of everyday routines, and it’s understandable that they would forget about day to day activities. You may want to help with the little things like shoveling a sidewalk during the winter, or doing the laundry that’s piling up.

You should do these things, but don’t wait for your friend to remember about these chores, commit them to a list and hand it over. The daily routine is the last thing on their minds right now, so it is up to you to decide where and how you want to help and let them know you are doing these things. They may not even be aware anymore that there are people that need to be notified of needing time off for the children, so try to anticipate these things.

Be the Shield

One thing that many people will want to do during a time of loss is give their condolences to the bereaved. If you know how inconvenient it is when people bother you in the middle of a bad day, this is much worse.

While people are obviously acting out of compassion, having others come up on a regular basis to discuss the loss and share condolences may not be what your friend needs right now. If your friend’s grieving process needs space, be the shield that allows that space and help others to understand that their sympathies, however well intentioned, may cause more burden than comfort.

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