Grieving the loss of a loved one is the worst feeling. Ever. It has been just over a year since my Dad died and I am still struggling through the grieving process. Grief has taken it’s toll on me but I know it has impacted my relationships with the other people in my life too. Today’s guest post is all about the ways you can help a grieving friend.
9 ways to help a grieving friend
When someone is going through grief, it can make them feel extremely lonely. All they want to do is curl up in a ball and forget about the world.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways of helping grieving friends and getting them through what is otherwise a challenging time.
In this post, we take a look at some of the strategies that you can deploy and how they help. Here’s what do to:
Offer Practical Assistance
When someone is grieving, it can be tempting to go into therapist mode, telling them how they should feel. But this approach is counterproductive. Ideally, you want to step back from the emotional side of things and offer support in other areas.
When thinking about how you can help, focus on the practical. Do things like running errands for them, collecting kids from school, and, if you are close to them, making sure that they pay all their bills on time. Try to avoid talking constantly about their feelings or telling them how they should feel.
Listening more and talking less is always the best policy when someone is going through grief. That’s because it’s a complicated emotion and tends to come out in different ways in different people. While there are supposedly five stages of grief, they don’t always come out in the same order. And some people skip stages, for instance, moving straight to depression without going through anger first.
Knowing that grief comes with a lot of complexity, it’s a good idea to take a step back. Allow the grieving friend to talk and remain quiet the rest of the time. If you need to speak, just let them know that you are there and happy to listen. If they say something related to how upset they feel, let them know that you understand. Most people can work through grief on their own.
Learn More About What Grief Entails
Regular people don’t have a good working model of how grief works in their minds. They think that it means feeling down about the death of a loved one, but there’s more to it than that.
Grief is the process of trying to overcome a significant loss. People associate it with death, but it can also occur at the end of a relationship, job or health scare.
When you understand how grief works, it makes it easier to manage a friend going through the process. You have a better understanding of what it’s like for them and where they are likely to go next.
Anxiety, anger, depression and sadness are all elements of grief. And they may pop up, seemingly at random, during the grieving process as your friend’s thoughts change.
They may also go through physical difficulties. For instance, grief often results in a loss of appetite, sleep disturbances and gastro issues. If you know that these are a risk, you can help your friend by running errands to the store to get the medication they need to help them feel better.
Give Them Space To Cry
Crying is an important part of the grieving process. It helps people externalise their emotions and get them out of their mind.
When a friend cries, the natural tendency is to try to make them feel better. However, the best policy is to simply let the emotions work their way out of the system. The more they can come out, the better the grieving person will feel.
Trying to cheer a friend up won’t work. Cheerfulness can only emerge organically once the person processes the loss. It can take time and energy. If you see your friend crying, view it as a positive thing – a part of the healing process.
Ask More Questions
Grieving people are usually in so much pain that they can’t see the situation from other people’s perspectives. They are focusing on their own issues.
For this reason, asking them plenty of questions can be helpful. This way, you can learn more about what they are going through and, potentially, how you can respond.
Check Their Self-Care
When people go through emotionally challenging events, it can take a toll on their self-care. They may let standards slip. For instance, they might start eating unhealthy food, stay seated all day long, neglect to take their medications or skip showering.
As a friend, it’s your job to make sure that they continue looking after themselves. If you need to prepare food for them, do so. If they can eat well and go to bed at a reasonable time, that’s half the battle.
Be Prepared To Sit In Silence For A Long Time
When people are happy and relaxed, conversation flows quite naturally. But when they are miserable, it doesn’t. In fact, when people are sad, their natural inclination is to be quiet.
Being silent can feel awkward to some people, but know that it is okay. If there is a pause in the conversation, allow it to take place. Remember, just being with your friend is usually all they need in a time of challenge.
Give Them Something
Giving your friend sympathy gifts can be extremely helpful, too. Presenting them with a keepsake makes it easier for them to process what’s happened and remember the person they’ve lost.
It also shows that you care in a different way from usual. It’s a gesture that can mean a lot to some people.
Don’t Shy Away From Talking About The Person Who Died
As a friend, it can be tempting to shy away from talking about the person who died. You don’t want to bring up the subject because of the strong emotions that it might generate.
However, research shows that bereaved people do want to talk about their loss. Discussing the death of a loved one actually helps them process what’s happened and get through the grieving process more rapidly.
You don’t have to actively encourage discussion. But bringing it up can help tremendously. Once the bereaved person starts talking, all you have to do is listen.