Six Ways To Support A Grieving Friend
Posted in: General
Posted on Jul 26, 2019
At TIFF, we talk a lot about how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. We also talk about how to be sure you’ll know right away, through our emergency contact system, if and when a loved one is not safe. But what do you do when those measures didn’t work? When the systems and precautions fail, and you or someone you know suffers debilitating, unimaginable loss? You grieve. You let them grieve. You endure, sometimes for longer, and with more strength, than you thought possible.
Here are a few ways you can be there for someone when they’re grieving.
Be there, but take a backseat. This isn’t about you. This is their hurt. Pain and grief are incredibly personal, and different. Every. Single. Time. Everyone grieves differently and every loss is different, even for the same person. And no matter how many funerals you’ve been to, how much loss you’ve endured, you simply don’t know exactly what they’re going through. Sit with them, cry with them, listen to them, laugh with them. But do not turn it into an opportunity to relive your own grief.
Tell the truth. Don’t predict the future or make promises, like saying, “This will get better.” Hopefully it will, but it sure doesn’t feel that way now. Tell the truth about the present: this sucks. This hurts. I love you. I’m here for you.
Be more than half of the relationship right now. Your grieving friend probably won’t return phone calls, or ask you how you’re doing. They might make plans and not show up. They may not be able to answer you when you ask, What do you need? Right now, they can’t do their fair share. Get that. This is your chance to do more for them, to simply be there for them. And that’s really what friendship is all about anyway, right?
Don’t ask, but ask. Show up and start helping. Make a meal, call their work, take the kids for a while. It’s difficult for someone who is grieving to ask for- sometimes to even identify- what they need. Just do. Show up, fill in the gaps, help- they will appreciate it, maybe now, maybe later. However, be careful to ask before making changes. They may have left certain things the way they are for a reason, as reminders or small memorials of their loved one who has passed. The small details- like a glass of water on the nightstand or a blanket thrown just so over the back of a chair- could be exactly how they want them left. In the wake of loss, small things become everything.
Be a gatekeeper. Someone who is grieving can easily become overwhelmed by mundane details. Run interference for them as a gatekeeper- convey information to other people, relay the important stuff to your grieving friend, and help others to have a good, but honest, understanding of what your friend or loved one is feeling.
Love them. Like a wounded animal, grieving people don’t always respond the way we hope or expect. Reaching out to help may cause your head to get bitten off- bear it anyway. Love them through it. Show them grace. They will come through this, in their own way, in their own time.
If you have suffered loss or walked through the grieving process with someone who has, tell us your story. Let us know what was helpful and not helpful. Together we can support and encourage one another. And if you haven’t ever had to endure the loss of a loved one, count yourself blessed beyond belief. Choose to do everything you can to support those around you during those difficult times. Work to protect yourself and loved ones from such heartbreak. We want to help you know immediately when this kind of help may be needed, and can sometimes even be prevented. Be sure you and your loved ones are registered with TIFF, so that in the event of a devastating accident, you’ll be notified and can act immediately.
“You never know you need it until YOU need it!” ~Jon Stuart, SCORE mentor