Few things are more painful in life than losing a loved one. Whether it’s a friend, spouse, or parent, death is never easy to cope with. Understanding this, how can you help a grieving friend who is suffering through a tragic loss? Knowing what to say and do is often a sensitive challenge.
4 Ways to Show Your Support
Showing support for a grieving friend isn’t about spending a lot of money or performing some grand gesture. Sometimes the simplest outpouring of support is the most meaningful.
If you aren’t sure what to do, try the following:
1. Don’t Ignore the Issue
In order to understand what proper support looks like, you might have to put yourself in your friend’s shoes. Think about how you would feel if your mom, spouse, or best friend suddenly passed away. You would want your friends and loved ones to surround you and help you through the pain, right? Why then, when the shoe is on the other foot, do we so often retreat and ignore the issue? We’ll talk about anything but the loss; we fear an emotional breakdown.
Here’s the thing: It’s never easy to talk about a loss, but it’s almost always healthy and necessary. When you interact with your friend, don’t try to be a distraction. There are times when it’s good to take their mind off the hurt, but there are plenty of other times where they need you to help them make sense of what’s happening.
2. Listen as Opposed to Fixing
As friends, another tendency we have is to be fixers. We want to make the problem better so the pain will go away. But have you ever considered that your friend needs you to be more therapist and less surgeon? More listener and less fixer? As Jeff Brookshire of Halcyon Hospice explains, active listening is a powerful communication technique where you sit there, absorb what’s being said, and then reflect your understanding back to the speaker.
“It is not passive – where you sit there and never say anything; and it is not active ‘talking’ where you control the conversation,” Brookshire says. “Rather, it is engaging the one grieving and letting them control the conversation, letting them take the lead, and letting them educate you about their own unique grief journey.”
3. Send a Gift
Some people respond best to physical expressions of love and support. If you know that this is one of the ways your friend is wired, then it may also be helpful to tangibly comfort them. Something like a get well basket, with relaxing spa products, snacks, and candles is a good idea. Or maybe delivering fresh flowers would help them feel cared for. You know your friend best, so pick something they’ll appreciate.
4. Offer to Help
Maybe sitting and talking isn’t your strongest attribute, but you have lots of time. Grieving people often don’t have the energy to do simple tasks like clean the house, wash clothes, mow the lawn, and run errands. Helping out with these tasks is a clear sign of support.
5. Be There for Your Friend
Grieving makes some people uncomfortable. If you aren’t sure how to comfort a loved one in their time of need, then you may simply choose to step away and give them space. In your mind, this is the easiest and most appropriate thing you can do. However, don’t assume that your lack of presence is comforting. Your friend needs you to be there. And sometimes the best thing is to put your arm around your friend and just sit and talk with them. Emotional support is often the greatest expression of your love.