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How to Help a Friend Who Is Grieving

Grief, Loss, and Friendship

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Help a friend who is grieving.

Image courtesy of FrameAngel / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When your friend is hurting, it is the worst feeling in the world. You want to help, say the right things, and take away your friend's pain. But sometimes the way you act can make things worse, even when your intentions are good.

What to Say to a Grieving Friend

Your first impulse might be to say, "If there is anything I can do, please let me know." Since your friend is hurting, you don't want to add to her burden, and if she needs to call you up and ask for your help, it might just feel like one more thing she has to take on. Instead, offer suggestions on what you can do.

Some things to offer are:

  • Cleaning house
  • Making meals
  • Picking up the kids from school
  • Helping with childcare
  • Running errands
  • Picking up books, CDs, or movies to cheer your friend up
  • Random acts of kindness that lift their spirits

All of these options depend on what your friend is going through and what type of things will ease her burden. By offering a few of these ideas up, it may allow your friend to think of a way you could help. 

Listen

When your friend is working through grief, the natural tendency is to tell her about how it will all get better one day. But before you start doling out advice or even anecdotes about how you recovered from grief, stop and just listen to your friend.

Things to say to get your friend to open up include:

  • "Tell me what you're feeling right now."
  • "Do you want to talk?"
  • "How about if I just sit with you?"

Physically being there for your friend is sometimes the best thing you can do. Wait for your friend to talk, and when she does, be silent and listen to everything she has to say. It might take her a long time to open up, and that's okay. Your physical presence will help her feel loved and cared for.

Caring Across the Miles

If your friend lives far away from you, you can still show support. Some things you can do include:

  • Calling frequently. In the beginning, call a few times a day to determine how your friend is doing.
  • Listen on the phone. Ask your friend how she is doing and wait silently for a response. Stay on the phone as long as your friend needs it.
  • Send a heartfelt note. Your friend might not appreciate it now, but as time goes on she will cherish written words to remind her she is loved.

Familiarize Yourself With the Stages of Grief

Your pal needs to work through the four stages of grief on her own terms. One day your friend might talk as if she is over things, while the next day might be filled with thoughts on why this happened. Everyone grieves differently and there is no right or wrong way to do it.

It may help to familiarize yourself with the four stages of grief: numbness (which happens right after the loss), searching (which may include crying or anger), despair (when your friend could withdraw), and recovery (where your friend starts to get back to a normal routine).

Your friend may take a long time in one phase before moving on to the next, skip one phase, or retreat back to a previous one. Your support will help her move through each phase as she gains strength to resume her normal life.

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