The support you give to a grieving friend is valued so highly they are likely to remember it for a very long time to come. It can be hard however, to know what the right thing is to do or say, especially if you have no personal experience of grief yourself. Here are a few pointers to help you to support your grieving friend as best you can.
The most important thing is to make yourself available to them. That means both physically and emotionally. Often, all a grieving friend needs is a listening ear. They may not be looking for any solutions from you. It can be very hard as an outsider to just quietly listen when you feel they should be taking a different approach to their lives.
It is important to remember that you are in a very different place emotionally to your grieving friend. Never be tempted to say you know how they feel, unless you have been in their position. Your good intention can easily be interpreted as insincerity, and may seem deeply insulting to your grieving friend.
Grief takes time. It can be an angry emotion as well as a lonely one. Expect times of desolation and fear. They are “normal” and acceptable parts of losing a loved one. Sometimes it can be hard to predict the mindset of your friend from one day to the next. It could be some days they seem much more buoyant and you fear bursting the bubble. A good rule of thumb is to ask whether they feel like talking about things. Accept the good days are just that, and tomorrow may not be so good. These moments have usually nothing to do with denial or even being over things. They are simply that, just better days.
Sadness and pain are normal, but depression is a very unwelcome visitor. Be prepared to intervene if your grieving friend starts to withdraw or dip for longer and longer periods. The doctor will have a whole range of tools to help. From one to one counselling, or groups of similarly minded people to medication which can help to stabilise your grieving friend’s outlook whilst they find their feet.
Encourage them to get out and about. Find distractions and try to help them to see ways through life without their loved one. It can be very hard to face places and people who are closely linked to their old life before the loss. If you can persuade them to visit old clubs and haunts, they will discover other people who want to help too.
The great thing about a good support network, is there should always be someone available to help. You do not have to take on the whole job of looking after your grieving friend alone. If you are not available one day there is likely to be someone else who can be.
Most of all be aware of your own personal feelings. The rawness of grief may be a shock to you. It could be you have never experienced such sharp, violent pain. Do not feel ashamed or guilty of becoming quite exhausted by the maelstrom of emotions you encounter. Be prepared to ask for help from your own support network. To be able to support your grieving friend you need to be strong and steadfast yourself.