6 Things You Can Do To Help Your Friend Through Grief
This is a guest article by Nat Juchems
Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things many of us will have to face. When it comes to watching someone close to us go through this situation, we’re called to face a challenge of a different kind.
At a time when your friend feels so much pain, knowing what to do or what to say is such a foreign concept for all involved. We can often put pressure on ourselves to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help them and nothing to contribute to their pain.
In reality, there is no right or wrong way to respond or help your loved one cope with their loss. All grief is highly individual. Each person grieves in a different way and needs support in different ways but there are a few common rules across the board that will help you understand your role in your friend’s grief and support them in the process.
1. Be there
One of the best things you can do for your friend is simply being there for them. While you may tell your friend you’re there for them, as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Your friend will be able to sense whether you’re open and willing to see them at their most raw. They will see you making the effort to visit or call, even if they push you away. They will appreciate the moments you’re there to sit in silence with them.
There’s a delicate balance here though; your friend might need space or alone time, as well as company, so it’s important to use your best judgment to not suffocate them.
2. Don’t try to fix things
What has happened, has happened. You can’t do anything to fix it, so there’s no need to try! This might seem obvious, but when you see your friend hurt, all you’ll want to do is help.
It’s not just the past you can’t change either, you can’t change the present. Nothing you do or say will alter the pain your friend’s grief is causing them. Whatever you do will simply help them navigate their new life and new situation. There’s no need for you to fix the unfixable; it might actually make them feel worse.
3. Make real offers to help
How many times have you had somebody say, “Call me if you need me”? How many times have you accepted their offer?
You see, making generalized offers of help have no value. Your friend won’t call you. They might want help, but the thought of reaching out to ask is so counterintuitive to many of us that it stops us from asking. Instead, make real offers with specific outcomes. For example, “I’ll take your dog for a walk every evening” or “I’ll pop over on Monday and bring you some groceries”.
These kinds of offers remove the thought-process your friend would have to go through to think about in which areas they need help. Although it may seem trivial, trying to think about typically mundane ‘regular life stuff’ can be too much in the face of grief.
4. Help them navigate their new responsibilities
One awful task people have to do after losing a loved one is arranging the funeral. It can be a harrowing experience, to say the least. So, go with them for support. They may not need your help but with a multitude of decisions to make, you might just be their lifeline when it comes to deciding which funeral car to choose or which cremation urn to go with.
5. Remember, it’s not about you!
People grieve in a range of different ways and your friend’s grief is completely unique to them. If you’ve been through a similar situation, it is not helpful for you to recollect your experience when talking to your friend, even if you think it might ease their pain. In actual fact, doing this will only serve to make your friend feel pressured by the comparison and lead them to believe you’re not fully there for them.
In the same vein, you may become hurt or feel unappreciated when you’re helping your friend in their hour of need. Just remember that you cannot take it personally. The feelings and emotions running through your friend’s mind at this time make it hard enough to get through the day, let alone show up in your friendship to make you feel valued. There will come a time when your friend has moved through the initial grief and begins to live a ‘normal’ life again. Until then, sit tight and understand that your friend is going through a process that doesn’t take you into account.
6. Recognize Signs of Depression
Although grief can manifest in a number of different ways, severe, prolonged depression should not be one of them. Extreme sorrow is par for the course after the loss of a loved one, but your friend should eventually show signs of easing symptoms. That said, it’s important for you to understand that grief is a uniquely personal experience, meaning that there is no set time limit when it comes to healing. Grief is not a linear process and your friend is bound to experience a series of ups and downs for many months and even years.
Nonetheless, there is a difference between sorrow and depression. Although they are very difficult to differentiate, there are certain signs to watch out for. Generally, the ‘normal’ grieving process comes with sadness which may come in waves, triggered by memories or thoughts about a loved one lost but these waves should become less frequent over the passing months. They may never fully disappear but they should not be all-consuming after some time.
Depression, on the other hand, is more constant and unrelenting. If your friend is showing no signs of improvement in terms of their sorrow, they cannot begin to see the positives in life again, or they seem to be getting worse, you must act. Get advice from a helpline so you can discuss your unique situation and find a way to help.
Regardless of what you do, dealing with loss is unfamiliar territory for all of those involved. While you worry about the best ways to help your friend, they will be none the wiser on how they need you to support them. Be sensitive, be attentive and be there. The rest will naturally flow as you both navigate grief together.
The most important thing you can do is to recognize your role in your friend’s healing process. After the loss of a loved one, people can become overwhelmed with well-wishers. Make sure you’re not overstepping the mark if your friend has closer friends or many family members around them. Since your friend is extremely vulnerable at this time and exposing that to someone they don’t consider to be in their close circle may be hard for them.
Nat Juchems is the Marketing Director at Green Meadow Memorials, Nat helps those grieving the loss of a loved find the right memorial to cherish. Before becoming the Marketing Director at Green Meadow Memorials, Nat worked for six years in the memorials ecommerce industry as a Marketing Director and Ecommerce Director, using his skill set to manage powerful paid search and organic search campaigns as well as implement merchandising strategies and manage the software development teams that made everything work. Nat enjoys spending time with his family and balancing that with training for triathlons.