Death is a difficult time for everyone. So often we feel at a loss of what to say and how to comfort our friend.
So, how can you help a friend who’s lost a loved one?
To help you have to be a good listener. Give the bereaved person space and time to express how they’re feeling. Allow them to cry and get angry if they need need to. This is not the time for your opinion. It’s amazing what a comfort and support just your presence can provide.
Don’t give advice or platitudes with comments like: “why don’t you …?” or “isn’t it time you moved on?” or, as someone said to me “I know how you felt when you Dad passed away because my dog died about a month ago and I know how upset I was.” Quite unbelievable isn’t it?
Maybe you’ve heard these. “Well they’re in a better place now”. “It’s difficult now, but you’ll get over it”. None of these comments help and even though they are well-meaning, they can also elicit feelings of anger, helplessness and not being heard.
By all means give your friend a shoulder to cry on, but don’t tell them how you think they should be feeling. Also leave the pace of the conversation up to your friend. Don’t push them into talking about issues they aren’t ready to, like asking if they’re now going to downsize. Be gentle! Don’t turn the conversation to your own issues and how you coped. This time is not about you, but about helping your friend. By all means share your good memories of the loved one.
“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of confusion or despair, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing… not curing… that is a friend indeed.”
Get to know the 5 Stages of Grief by the psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. These can be very helpful to know what to expect when someone is going through the grieving process. In this way you won’t be shocked or surprised at the emotions shown by your grieving friend. These stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. You can learn more about these stages by clicking here.
Abnormal Grief Response
If your friend is experiencing continued sadness, seems to be ‘stuck’ with no change for more than 2 months, the sadness could have developed into a clinical depression. Have a look at these depression symptoms and if they seem to fit, your friend they might benefit from professional treatment and counselling. Get them to a doctor.