Helping a Friend in Grief
When someone you care about is grieving after a loss, it can be difficult to know what to say or do. You may be afraid of intruding, saying the wrong thing, or making your loved one feel even worse. Or maybe you think there’s little you can do to make things better. But your comfort and support can make all the difference to your loved one’s healing. While you can’t take away the intense pain of their loss, there are many ways to show someone who’s grieving how much you care and to help them through this difficult time.
How to support someone who’s grieving?
The death of a loved one is one of life’s most difficult experiences. The bereaved struggle with many intense and painful emotions, including depression, anger, guilt, and profound sadness. Often, they feel isolated and alone in their grief, but having someone to lean on can help them through the grieving process.
The intense pain and difficult emotions that accompany bereavement can often make people uncomfortable about offering support to someone who’s grieving. You may be unsure what to do or worried about saying the wrong thing at such a difficult time. That’s understandable. But don’t let discomfort prevent you from reaching out to someone who is grieving. Now, more than ever, your loved one needs your support. You don’t need to have answers or give advice or say and do all the right things. The most important thing you can do for a grieving person is to simply be there. It’s your support and caring presence that will help your loved one cope with the pain and gradually begin to heal.
The keys to helping a loved one who’s grieving
- Don’t let fears about saying or doing the wrong thing stop you from reaching out
- Let your grieving loved one know that you’re there to listen
- Understand that everyone grieves differently and for different lengths of time
- Offer to help in practical ways
- Maintain your support after the funeral
Helping a grieving person tip 1: Understand the grieving process
The better your understanding of grief and how it is healed, the better equipped you’ll be to help a bereaved friend or family member:
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief does not always unfold in orderly, predictable stages. It can be an emotional rollercoaster, with unpredictable highs, lows, and setbacks. Everyone grieves differently, so avoid telling your loved one what they “should” be feeling or doing.
Grief may involve extreme emotions and behaviors. Feelings of guilt, anger, despair, and fear are common. A grieving person may yell to the heavens, obsess about the death, lash out at loved ones, or cry for hours on end. Your loved one needs reassurance that what they feel is normal. Don’t judge them or take their grief reactions personally.
There is no set timetable for grieving. For many people, recovery after bereavement takes 18 to 24 months, but for others, the grieving process may be longer or shorter. Don’t pressure your loved one to move on or make them feel like they’ve been grieving too long. This can actually slow the healing process.