Here are 5 ways to support a grieving loved one:
1. Reach out
Make efforts to get in touch with a loved one when they lose a close friend or family member. Despite all your worries and anxieties, do not avoid them. Take the initiative to go and meet them or call them. Talk to them with the intention to understand them. According to a post in Medium, “People experiencing loss are not generally proactive. They may be in a fog, they may have a hard time just coping with what has to be done. They may not even know what they need. They won’t themselves reach out, because grief is disabling.”
Right now they are confused and emotionally broken. As loss and grief can lead to depression, they may isolate themselves and shut themselves off. Hence, it is even more important that you reach out, not just once but repeatedly. If visiting them personally on a regular basis is difficult, then you can call or even text to let them know you’re there.
2. Understand what to say
Now that we’re clear that you should reach out, it’s time to understand what you should say to them. Well, it turns out listening is more important than talking when it comes to supporting a grieving friend. Be a good listener and offer your comforting presence. In a TIME magazine article, author Hoggart explains that we need to make space for them to express their feelings without necessarily interjecting. She writes “We have such problem-solving attitudes in our society, but it’s unlikely that you can fix this situation. Without any magical thing to say to make it all better, just give them the space to express themselves and feel heard.”
However, it is also crucial to know what you can and should say. No matter how well-meaning your intentions are, stay away from fake positivity. Don’t try to change the topic when they mention the deceased person. In fact, you should not be afraid to mention the deceased explains the Harvard Health post. It states “It won’t make your friend any sadder, although it may prompt tears… Saying how much you’ll miss the person is much better than the perfunctory, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Moreover, make sure you only make promises that you can keep and let them know exactly how you can support them through this difficult time. Let your friend know how valued the deceased person was and what they meant to you. Be thoughtful and just be there for them. “By being present and listening compassionately, you can take your cues from the grieving person. Simply being there and listening to them can be a huge source of comfort and healing,” explains HelpGuide.
3. Don’t give advice
As a friend or family member of someone dealing with loss, your role is to support them, not to provide answers. Although you may be tempted to tell them what they should do, let them figure out their own way ahead. Grief is a very personal experience and everyone copes with it in their own way. It may take them a few months or even a few years to get over the profound sadness of loss. If you truly want to help them through the grieving process, acknowledge their emotions and tell them it’s okay to feel what they are feeling. Don’t try to minimize their emotions.
In an Huffpost article, author and grief advocate Megan Devine explains “You have a supporting role, not the central role, in your friend’s grief. This may seem like a strange thing to say. So many of the suggestions, advice and ‘help’ given to the griever tells them they should be doing this differently, or feeling differently than they do.” She believes that grief “belongs entirely to the person experiencing it. You may believe you would do things differently if it had happened to you. We hope you do not get the chance to find out. This grief belongs to your friend: follow his or her lead.”