Losing a loved one is the single most heartbreaking experience we never wish on anyone. Sadly, it is a fact of life. The best thing we can do is to offer a shoulder to cry on when it happens to someone close to it.
Many of us want to help a friend in sorrow but often we don’t know how. Our intentions are pure but we worry that we may do more harm than good.
Ministers, priests and rabbis deal with this type of situation on a daily basis. What if your grieving friend comes to you for consoling? What do you do?
Here are some of the best ways to support your bereaved friend.
- Follow his or her lead
Grief belongs to the griever. In a situation like this, you are only to play a supporting role and your friend, the central role. This means you are not to appropriate yourself in the shoes of the grieving. Don’t think about what you will do if it happens to you. When you do, you’re bound to tell your friend how to do things differently, thereby depriving them of the natural need to mourn their way. Simply follow his or her lead. Show that you respect the very personal stage of grieving your friend is going through.
- Never divert them
Many who make condolence calls intentionally veer away from the subject. They’d rather talk about who won in the latest football or what the weather will be like tomorrow. Diversion doesn’t help because it doesn’t allow the grieving person to face the situation. As the supporting friend, you must face grief with them and you must acknowledge that it must be dealt with instead of escaping from it.
- Sit in silence
Not every mourning person is ready to talk about it right away. Some would rather sit still, in silence, with someone they feel secure with. Be willing to sit with your friend without exchanging words. Sometimes, your presence is more than enough to console them. Remember, this is their personal grieving. You are going to follow their lead. At times, a reassuring hug or a slight squeeze of the hand does more than words. When they are ready to talk, they will.
- Listen, listen, listen
There are those who express their grieving through words. They may pour their hearts out on you and when that happens, you should be ready to listen. Allow them to let it all out because this is their way of coping with loss of someone close to them. Let them talk and lend them a listening ear. We all worry about saying the “wrong” thing to a bereaved person. That’s why sometimes, listening works better.
- Do a tangible act for them
Concrete deeds are a strong way of saying you wish nothing more than to extend comfort and support. Grieving people feel an intense sense of helplessness and hopelessness. It is challenging them for them to go about their daily lives because a significant part of it was taken away from them. Do a tangible act for them. Is your friend skipping meals? Bring over his/her favorite food. Does he have kids? Offer to drive them to school instead. Small deeds like these make a big difference. So don’t be afraid to go the extra mile.
- Do things together
Apart from doing things for them, you should also do things with them. Whether it’s to accompany them to the cemetery, do their grocery shopping with them or packed the deceased’s things with them, don’t let your friend do it alone. Your presence is more than enough. It tells them that someone is going to be there with them every step of the way until such time they are ready to take on life once again.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about the deceased
It’s hard to move on when you see someone who was once full of life lie lifeless in a coffin. That’s why it’s good to paint a picture of the deceased in a better light so your grieving friend can feel even the slightest sense of relief. Don’t be afraid to talk about the one who passed away. Ask your friend about his/her favorite memories of the deceased. Simple lines like “Tell me more about her” or “What was he like?” can go along way.
- Always reassure
Those who were left behind by the deceased always have a feeling of guilt. That they should have been a better father; that they should have done more as a daughter; that they should have forgiven them right away. The list goes on and on. The important thing here is to always reassure your friend that they are a good father, a loving daughter and they have been forgiven. There’s a lot riding on guilt, especially in this kind of situation. These guilty feelings must wake their way out until the bereaved lets go of them.
- Above all, love
Show up. Call them every now and then. Keep their spirits up. Showing your friend you are there for them no matter what is a genuine manifestation of love. Death is the greatest of all tragedies. The best we can do is to be there. Be present. Be the friend to someone who is facing such trying times.