5 Ways to Help a Grieving Friend
How to Actually Help Someone Who is Grieving
When someone is grieving, most of us tend to clam up. We become hyper-aware of everything we say and do – suddenly fearful that we might say something insensitive or offensive.
Most often, the result is that we say nothing at all. A popular, noncommittal generality we sometimes resort to is: “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”
But the reality is, that person often doesn’t know what they want you to do. It’s entirely possible that all they want is just for you to be present.
Five Ways You Can Help
Grief is a shared human experience that we all, unfortunately, have to face at various times in our lives. Although we can all recognize the pain of grief in the moment it affects us, most often we’re uncertain about what to do when someone close to us experiences the same difficulty.
In fact, you don’t really need a degree in counseling to help someone who’s grieving. Here are five simple ways you can step up and be there for your friend.
- Check in On Them
When someone is grieving, we might believe they want to be left alone. We don’t wish to impose, so we may take a step back and assure ourselves we can connect with the person once things “settle down.”
That could actually be one of the worst choices you can make in this situation. But many people think and behave in this way, which means the grieving individual gets left feeling alone and no one cares, even if all of his or her friends are trying to do their best.
If you want to help in a meaningful way, check in on a regular basis. A phone call every few days is not a bad idea. You could also send an encouraging text or note each day. (Make it clear that you don’t require or expect a response, because that might inadvertently raise the stress for someone who’s trying to deal with grief.)
- Be a Good Listener
People often struggle with what to say when a friend is suffering. Our natural tendency is to say something that will make the other person feel better, but it’s entirely possible that nothing you might say will dispel their pain in the moment.
A wiser option would be to remain quiet and listen. Let the person process their thoughts and feelings. Allow them to be angry, sad, or frustrated without comment or judgment. Let them cry.
Anger, frustration, and crying can all be normal expressions of grief. When you accept this, rather than trying to make it go away, you can help the suffering person begin to heal.
- Ask Thoughtful Questions
Though you should adopt a listening-first approach, it may be helpful to ask thoughtful questions. A considerate and calm query may help the person to open up and explore different thoughts.
It offers them an invitation to speak aloud and express themselves when they are not sure what to say. If you ask questions, try to avoid those that seek a simple yes or no, which can be dead-ends.
Instead, ask open-ended questions that encourage your friend to put words together. There’s healing in talking. Getting a grieving person to open up and articulate how they’re feeling can help them process what they’re going through.
- Give Thoughtful Gifts
Your emotional support is the most important thing you can provide. There is something nice about physical gifts and tokens of your love and care, though.
If you opt for a gift, be thoughtful. If you decide on flowers, find a local craft florist, like Flowers for Dreams, that does fresh and unique arrangements you’re not apt to see in a supermarket.
If you give food, consider a food delivery gift card so the person may order whatever they might crave at that moment.
- Actually Help (Don’t Just Ask!)
We often send messages to grieving friends asking them if there’s anything we can do for them. These are well-intended, but questions place an extra burden on the bereft individual.
It requires them to think of things for you to do . . . and many people will simply say “no” or “nothing” because they don’t want to inconvenience you, or do the work of having to come up with a mission for you. It’s more considerate if you just go ahead and do something.
For example, don’t ask if there’s something you can do around the house. Show up with your lawnmower and mow the lawn. Don’t ask if there’s any way you can help with the kids. Tell them you’re coming to pick up the kids this weekend to give them a sleepover at your house. Be proactive!
Be There for Your Friend
Your friend doesn’t need a superhero to come in and save the day. You both know you’re incapable of doing that in a situation like this.
Instead, just be there for them. By leaning in and offering comfort and practical assistance in various ways, you can help your friend feel loved and supported during the darkest moments.
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