How can I support my friends who are grieving?

8 04 2009

One of the most challenging things we face is when our family and friends lose someone close to them.  Here are some hints that I’ve found helpful through the years…

Provide a listening ear.  We feel we should “say” something, especially in the awkward silences (these moments are really only awkward to us, not to our friend).  But ofttimes the best thing we can do is say nothing; just be available to listen, to simply be “present” with them in their pain.  Provide love and understanding…maybe even the space they need to work through it.  Usually what will be remembered the most by those going through grief will is that you were there for them, not something you said (or “words of advice”) during that time.

Validate their feelings.  We all grieve in unique ways because we are individuals.  No two people respond exactly alike in all situations.  Feelings run the gamut from anger to numbness, and everything in between.  Allow your friend to express what they are feeling without judgement or correction; it is their grief and their feelings.  Simply offer support and validate what they are feeling at the moment.  Try to understand that these emotions may shift from one extreme to another; this is a normal response.

Patience is a virtue.  As your friend works through his or her grief, they may need to recount stories and experiences from the past; this requires patience on your part, especially if they’ve told you the same story over and over.  It is a normal component to the healing process.

How do I refer to the deceased?  When talking to family members, use the deceased persons name.  Their loved one’s memory is very much alive, and it is important to remember this when speaking to the family.  You want to reassure them that they are not forgotten; that you will join them in keeping the memories alive.  Part of the remembrance process is recounting personal stories with the family; they want to hear you talk about these experiences; to laugh and cry together as you relive those times.

Show affection.  A hug or a hand on the shoulder can go a long way to comfort your friend.  Even a warm handshake with a look into their eyes will communicate a message of compassion and care.

Greg

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3 responses

13 04 2009
Cindy Holman

These are great tips! We sometimes think that we shouldn’t speak the name of the loved one – but that is not true – the grieving heart likes to hear the name and remember a great memory that you have about them. So helpful for the grieving process.

13 04 2009
Greg Holman

Yes Cindy; so much different from the movie “Australia” where the aboriginal people were saying that when someone dies you can speak there name no longer. Interesting. It seems like more of a “stuffing” of emotions to do things that way.

6 02 2011
Audio Power Amplifiers

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