- Allison Ramsey, Asheville Grief Counselor
How To Help Your Grieving Friend
How To Help Your Grieving Friend
I help grieving people process their loss and get back on their feet. I hear over and over again, “People are tired of me grieving.” It can be really hard to support someone through their loss, because as I’ve mentioned before, we don’t know how to grieve so we just want it to be over. Here are some things to remember when you’re trying to help a friend or family member who is grieving.
1. Don’t say “If there’s anything you need, let me know.” Your friend’s world just collapsed. She doesn’t know up from down. It’s time for you to empathize and try to imagine her daily routine. Is there a duty in there you could fulfill? A big one is delivering food. But a lot of people do that (thankfully) so you might ask if she needs any food tonight or tomorrow. If she’s already loaded with food, mark your calendar for 3-4 weeks from now, and ask then. People can get a huge wave a support in the first month or so, but after that the griever may feel forgotten. There are a lot of other daily routines that get pushed to the side, and people benefit from routines, but they are also very likely to drop those routines when they’re grieving. Sleeping, eating, and exercising are important daily habits, and people feel more capable when they’re able to do those things daily. You could deliver some snacks or schedule a house cleaner. You could offer to pick her kids up from school, or have them at your house for the day. You could ask her to go for a walk. If your friend is far away, call and ask if you can order take-out from a favorite restaurant. There are hundreds of things you could do, you just have to know your friend and stand it her shoes.
2. Ask her how she’s doing, and be willing to hear the answer. If your friend has experienced a loss, you do not have to worry about bringing it up. She has not forgotten it. She is thinking about it all the time, and may really want to talk about it. But the griever may begin to feel like a burden and doesn’t want to burden you. So ask her questions about her loved one and her experience. Give her a chance to tell stories and share memories. Just listen. You don't have to say anything to try to make it better.
3. Write a letter. If you don’t know the griever very well, but you knew the deceased, write a letter to their closest family member - a spouse, adult child, parent. Share a good memory you have of the deceased. The griever will be grateful to have new information about their loved one to add to their memory.
4. Invite her to do activities with you. And if she says no, keep asking with regularity. I’ve heard grieving people tell me that after the initial rush of support and a week full of casseroles that they feel like their friends and family start to avoid them. This enhances the feeling of being a burden, and increases isolation. Isolation is bad for grieving. And remember number 2 if you’re going to hang out together.
5. Remember anniversaries. Your friend probably knows the exact number of months, weeks, and days it’s been since her loved one died. Call her on the deceased’s birthday, their anniversary, or your friend’s birthday. Set a calendar reminder for yourself.
As humans we are deeply affected by our losses. But as a society that's bad at grieving, we tend to want to hold out until "it's over". But the thing is, it may never be over. We need help assimilating our losses into our lives and we can help to do that through friends and family that allow good grieving - grief that lasts as long as it needs to, that looks a lot of different ways, and helps us to reconnect to the world.