When someone close to you loses a friend or family member, how do you deal with their grief? Are you a “suddenly silent and invisible” friend because you don’t know how to deal with pain? Do you smother the grieving person in food, affection, and advice? Or do you land somewhere in the middle? Wherever you are on the spectrum, we have a few sage pieces of advice for when you are helping others through grief.
Don’t Judge Their Grief
You may have heard this before, but people grieve in different ways, and that is okay. Even when people know this, in our helpful attitudes, we often want to tell people if they should be done grieving, or that they should be grieving more. Let those who are mourning do so in whatever way they wish (as long as they aren’t hurting themselves or others.) This doesn’t mean that you can’t ask them how they’re doing. But it does mean that you must let them grieve in their own fashion. If for some reason you are especially concerned for your grieving friend, suggest that they speak to a counselor or join a grief group.
Don’t Disappear or Ignore The Deceased
You may not be extremely comfortable talking about grief and death, but one of the most kind things you can do is recognize the loss of a loved one to those who lost them. Whether it’s saying their name out loud or asking the grieving about different memories they have with that person, acknowledge the deceased.
We recommend not going on and on about your own memories about the person, but focus on the memories of the one who is grieving. Another idea is to remember the deceased on special days. Send your friend a card on their birthday or an anniversary that says that you’re thinking of them on that special and hard day. These small gestures will show that you care about the grief your friend is going through and you are there to support them.
Do Offer Tangible Help
At funerals and memorial services, there are often many well intended people who say, “let me know if you need anything.” While it is a good thought, those who are grieving are often in shock and grief, and they will rarely reach out to someone who has offered help. Instead, offer tangible ways that you can help those who are mourning. It may also be helpful to wait until a week or two after the funeral to offer this help. Mow their lawn, babysit their kids, or bring over some hot coffee when you know they could use a little encouragement. The more specific and tangible the help is, the better.
These tips on helping others through grief are straightforward but can also be extremely useful when you put them into practice. We would be interested to hear how these tips have helped you and if you have any other suggestions. Make sure to comment below!