It can be tricky to know how to help a grieving friend. You may not know what to say or how to be of service. You may even try to search for the one thing that will remove their pain. But grief isn’t a linear process, and everyone processes it differently. Additionally, it can take a lifetime for someone to recover. In fact, the pain doesn’t just go away. The loss becomes a part of their identity. So, understanding its process and how challenging it is for the grieving will help you deliver empathy and compassion. Yet, thankfully there are several meaningful ways to help a grieving friend to show unconditional support in a time of need.
10 Ways to Help a Grieving Friend
1. Mindfully listen
We often don’t know what to say to a loved one grieving. And that’s okay. But the best route is to listen mindfully. Indeed, your friend will appreciate the space you provide for them to vent their emotions and frustrations rather than hearing your advice or opinion. And while you’re listening, ensure you’re focusing with intent and compassion. Your friend will feel your presence with gratitude.
2. Send them loving kindness
If your friend needs space, respect their wishes and send them metta. Metta is a type of meditation that means loving-kindness. When you’re meditating, visualize your friend surrounded by white light and recite positive affirmations. For example, say, “May you be well and safe. May you be at peace”. Continue to repeat the phrase until you feel a flow of compassion radiating from your body. It will foster a state of love for your friend.
3. Babysit their kids
If they have children, offer to babysit. This gesture will go a long way for a grieving friend. Indeed, grief creates a rollercoaster of emotions that makes completing simple tasks very challenging, let alone caring for children. Time alone will allow them to grieve without distractions and provide a chance to reconnect to their self-care for busy parents who need a break.
4. Run their errands
Like babysitting, offering practical help will move mountains. Yet your friend may not reach out and ask for help. Due to conditioning and how society handles grief, they may feel ashamed to ask for your support, or when you offer, they may decline your request. Instead of taking it personally, rephrase. For example, instead of calling to say, “What can I do for you?” (which puts the burden on them) say, “I would like to…
- Call a cleaning service
- Mow your lawn
- Wash your dishes
- Help with laundry
- Cook you a meal (Check out these comfort food recipes)
5. Offer to organize arrangements
Remember, your friend’s capacity to handle tasks, their emotions, and the aftershock of their loss is strained. And while everyone copes with grief differently, they may be in a state of fight-flight-or-freeze and unable to move forward with necessary arrangements. So, express your intent to help them organize any funeral arrangements. For example, call your friend and say, “I love you, and I am here for you. I would like to help you organize the funeral and anything else”.
6. Continuously check-in
One of the best ways to help a grieving friend is to check in. Even if you can’t physically be there and you’re lost on how to comfort someone from far away, stay connected. But be mindful and avoid offering your advice or opinion or asking, “How are you?” Instead, ask, “How are you feeling today?” and provide an act of service or come over to allow them space to vent in person. Additionally, it’s important to recognize that your friend may not have the capacity to reach out to you. So, take the initiative and continue to check in even after months have passed to say hello and provide compassion.
7. Ask about the deceased
Many often mistakenly believe they shouldn’t mention the name of the deceased. But on the contrary, your loved ones want to speak about those they lost. So, try not to tip-toe around the subject and ask questions to facilitate healing. For example, ask about their favorite memories and what they miss about them. It will create a safe space to share their feelings openly and without judgment.
8. Remember the anniversary
No matter how much time has passed, anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays can be particularly difficult for the grieving. They serve as painful reminders of the loss they experienced and continue to experience. Therefore, remember these dates and reach out to them to deliver emotional support. Doing so will help them battle feelings of loneliness and depression and give them a pillar of strength during a traumatic time.
9. Don’t compare
Try to avoid comparing your past to their grief. No two losses are the same, and sharing yours might cause anger and resentment. Therefore, as hard as it may be, refrain from speaking about your personal experience. The last thing you want to do is to minimize their pain or create a wedge within your friendship.
10. Welcome their feelings
Grief can create a spectrum of emotions and ups and downs. One minute someone may appear happy, and a moment later, they could be screaming or crying. Both are acceptable. Indeed, no emotion, no matter how intense or uncomfortable it appears, is wrong or unhealthy. Emotions are simply emotions. And allowing your friend to express their feelings without judgment will allow them the much-needed opportunity to work through them instead of feeling ashamed and trying to suppress them. Therefore, remind them that it’s completely normal to experience this range of emotions and that you’re there to hold space for all of them.
Remember, the value of your presence does not go unnoticed. While your friend may not respond how you like or expect, deep down, they are grateful. Every gesture, whether offering practical support, calling to check in, or providing empathy, is a gift. And your continued support is one of the most loving ways to help a grieving friend. So, keep moving forward with compassion to help them do the same for themselves.
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