When a friend or someone close to you experiences loss, it can be difficult to know what to say or do. Since the grieving process is intensely personal and isolating, it’s impossible for you to penetrate the walls your friend may have put up. At times, you will feel afraid to approach the situation for fear that you will say the wrong thing. But, you shouldn’t let this prevent you from reaching out to your friend in their time of need.
The famous quote from Maya Angelou, “people will forget what you did, but people will forget how you made them feel” speaks to this situation perfectly. In this period of grief and pain, your words are not important. It’s essential to be there for your friend, even if that just means sitting beside them. Your friend might not want to express their feelings, but knowing that you are with them will help them to understand they are not alone.
If you are struggling to reach out to your grieving friend, here are 5 ways to support them in their dark time.
1) Don’t speak in generalizations
When you’re lost for words, it’s natural to defer to phrases you’ve heard a thousand times before. Especially if you have never experienced loss yourself, it might be easy to assume that your grieving friend wants to hear platitudes such as “time heals all” and “they’re in a better place”. But, in reality, these words work to invalidate the griever’s feelings as the statements not only lack substance but do not address the ‘present’. These quotes refer to a hypothetical ‘future’ where the griever has come to terms with their pain, instead of acknowledging the current situation. This is why you should stay in the present and tell the truth. While there are no words that could free your friend from their pain, it’s important to show them that you are trying to empathize with their process.
2) Take Some Small Tasks Off Their Hands
Grief is both emotionally and physically debilitating. Simple, ordinary tasks like making breakfast or having a shower can feel like a colossal effort when you’re in pain. That’s why completing small chores such as maybe doing their dishes, bringing them dinner, or retrieving their mail, are fantastic ways to support your friend. These acts might appear tiny or ineffectual to you, but they are meaningful to your friend.
While it’s great to take initiative, you should also remain respectful of your friend’s environment. This means that you should consider if certain objects hold significance to your friend. For example, a dirty shirt in the laundry could belong to your friend’s lost loved one, and therefore still holds their scent.
3) Support With Difficult Or Confronting Tasks
The intricate elements associated with loss can be incredibly hard to confront when you’re alone. Aside from feelings of grief, there are also other pressing tasks to attend to. These tasks could include funeral planning, shopping for cremation urns, or packing and sorting through rooms, just to name a few. Offer to assist your friend by sharing the burden of these tasks. Most of the time, your presence alone is enough to empower and support your friend.
4) Don’t Try To ‘Fix’ or ‘Solve’ The Situation
Loss is irrevocable and irreversible. This means that there is nothing you can do to ‘fix’ or ‘solve’ this situation. It’s important to understand that your role as their friend is to support and care for them, not try to repair their pain. Their emotions are natural and must be experienced in order to heal.
5) Show Your Support
Approaching this tough circumstance is difficult and uncomfortable; especially, if you’re not sure what to do. But, this fear should not stop you from trying entirely. Show up for your friend, in any capacity. Listen to them and just be there.
When it comes to grief, there is no magic pain-relieving fix. But, friendship can be a powerful light used to guide your friend through this dark time.
Photo by Alyssa Stevenson on Unsplash