Death is an unfortunate part of life. Despite the fact that it happens to everyone, the passing of a loved one never gets easier — no matter what the cause is. Sudden deaths, long-term illnesses, or even peaceful departures can often weigh heavily on those left behind. The best thing you can do for a friend who is going through a difficult time is to give them emotional, mental, and spiritual support.
Sometimes, however, it is difficult to know how to truly help someone who has recently had a close friend or family member pass way. Grief affects different people in different ways, and loss is greater when you had a close relationship with the deceased. Regardless of the particular scenario, friends and family members should endeavor to care for and support one another.
Even in the most trying circumstances, being surrounded by true friends will bring a grieving person genuine comfort. As a friend, even just being physically present shows that you are dependable and trustworthy. Financial assistance or offering to do housework or errands for the friend in question will greatly reduce the stressfulness of their situation.
Funeral arrangements and other practical matters that require resolution after a person’s death place an overwhelming amount of responsibility on someone who is likely struggling to stay on top of the situation. As a true friend, helping out in any way you can really shows your support. There are a number of thoughtful ways to support a friend in grieving:
Be a Good Listener
Being a good listener is a lot more difficult than being a good talker. Have you ever talked to someone who seems simply to be waiting for their turn to speak, instead of truly absorbing your own contribution? It’s deeply frustrating, and yet most of us are guilty of this character flaw at some time or other.
Nevertheless, when your friend loses someone close to them, it’s time to tweak your listening skills. Known as active listening, really listening and taking in what someone is saying is admirable. As the old saying goes, “attention is the most sincere form of generosity.” With regards to someone who is grieving, active listening is an excellent strategy in helping them deal with their loss. While you are listening to their expressions of sorrow (and sometimes regret, depending on the nature of the relationship before their loved one died), they are wading through their own grief by reminiscing about that person’s life. This is an effective way of dealing with what has happened, because revisiting memories and expressing their emotions openly helps them to process the event. Be prepared for your friend to shed some tears when you are comforting them in such a manner, and over time you will start to see a gradual improvement in their general outlook and contentment.
Accept Their Emotions
There is no right way to grieve. If your friend is grieving, don’t judge them by how they choose to grieve. For example, even if you’ve been their best friend since you were both kids doesn’t mean they want you around them all the time during the grieving process. Some people are incredibly private and, particularly introverted personalities, will not express their emotions fully in front of everyone. For such people, it is more probably that they cry when they are alone; behind closed doors.
It is also recommended that you don’t take offence at your friend’s behavior while they are trying to deal with their loss. It is not uncommon for people to act inappropriately when someone dies: families may act competitively at the funeral, may have disagreements about the practicalities surrounding the death, and may even become bitterly resentful over their relative’s will.
As a friend, it is not your responsibility to get involved in family drama during this time. You are also not entitled to feel annoyed because your offers of support have been rejected. It is imperative to understand that death of a loved one can temporarily cause those in grief to lose their desire to interact with society and follow its unwritten rules. If the person who died was their universe, they may feel like life is very empty without them in it. Thus, this is not the time to harbor petty grievances just because they haven’t returned your call or keep postponing a coffee date.
It is an old saying that time heals all wounds, but this is not something you should necessarily say to your grieving friend. Another thoughtful way to support your friend is to understand that time is a relative thing with regards to mourning. Some people seem to be hardly affected by the death of a loved one, or only mourn for a few weeks. Others may take months or even years, and then there are those tragic souls who never truly get over it.
When you’re offering your time and support to a friend who is grieving, it is more helpful to them if you are specific with regards to how you propose to help. The effectiveness of being specific in this instance depends largely on how close you are to your friend. The closer you are, the more you will know about their daily routine and be able to offer pragmatic suggestions to help ease their situation. If, for example, they do their grocery shopping on a Saturday and you do yours on a Sunday, you may be in a position to modify your schedule and get groceries for your friend while you’re organizing your own household.
Never avoid someone who is grieving simply because you feel awkward. A true friend will endure the awkwardness they feel in order to express their support and endeavor to help in any way they can. Death is a difficult subject, and when the person who passed away carried a special place in your friend’s heart it can be truly painful for them. Death is inevitable, but this doesn’t mean we stop caring and can simply switch off our emotions when it happens to someone we love.