Losing a loved one is hard and unfortunately there is no manual that tells us how to deal with it. Friends and family can provide amazing help during these difficult times but sometimes no matter how much we want to help we just don’t know how. This is a completely normal thing to experience. But if you are looking for ways to help your friends deal with a loss, these tips might help you feel more confident in helping your friends deal with grief.
There are no magic words
Not knowing where to start, never mind what to say or do in these situations, can be really intimidating. There is also a fear of saying the wrong thing or being accidentally insensitive in your words. This is completely natural, but do not let this fear get in the way of your support.
Your friend does not need you to have the right words because truthfully there are no such thing. There are no magic words or fantastic phrases that will suddenly make them forget their grief so don’t waste time trying to formulate them. Simply showing your friend your support and letting them know you are there for them is a great place to start.
Some people have a habit of bottling things up and not confiding in others. Their natural instinct is to pretend that they are absolutely “fine” and that everything is okay. It is impossible for this to last forever which is why it is important to remind your friend that you are around if they ever need to talk. There is no guarantee that they will accept your offer on the spot or perhaps ever. But you might find yourself getting a text or call weeks later asking if the offer for a chat still stands. At this point listening to your friend is incredibly valuable.
Combine empathy and sympathy
Our instinct tends to be to soothe our friends, but this can lead to unintentionally invalidating their emotions. We might be inclined to insist “it’s fine” when it’s really not. The truth of the situation is that it isn’t okay, and your friend probably isn’t either. Whether the death; follows a full life, cuts one short, is unexpected or is anticipated, mourning is inevitably tough.
Try to avoid platitudes such as telling them not to cry or not to worry. Usually letting your friend cry and encouraging them to talk through their concerns is more beneficial. Recognise that sometimes talking is the last thing they want and avoid pushing them. Choosing to empathise over sympathise will help support your friend without suffocating them.
Let yourself grieve too
If you also knew the person your friend is grieving, then allow yourself the necessary time to mourn. It is natural to get caught up supporting your friend and push your own emotions to the back. Their loss may be on a greater scale but your place on the scale is valid too. Actively grieving in front of that particular friend is probably impossible and unhelpful, but seek to lean on other friends or family for support if required.
There is also further information and support on bereavement.ie.
Have you any tips for helping your friends deal with grief?