Dealing with grief in your own life can be quite difficult. However, watching a close friend cope with loss can be even harder. When this happens, most people want to be able to help but simply don’t know what to do or what to say to make their friends feel better. While it can seem impossible, there are ways that you can help your friend navigate this time in their life. If you have a friend who’s grieving, here are a few tips on helping them cope and becoming the listener and helper that you want to be.
Try to better understand what they’re going through
It can be hard to offer the right support to our friends if we do not know what they’re going through. For example, if they’ve recently undergone a traumatic event where someone passed away but they continued to live, they may feel survivor’s guilt. They may be experiencing overwhelming feelings of guilt and believe they should’ve passed instead and may also be struggling with mental health disorders like PTSD or depression. Traumatic stress disorder is a common reaction to traumatic events, especially if there are family members involved. In order to understand how to support them, put yourself in their shoes. What are they feeling? What are they going through? How has it impacted them? What might they need as they move forward? You not only have to be a good listener but someone who can empathize and help them meet their needs based on their individual situation. Try to get an understanding of the feelings of guilt, sadness and negative thoughts they’re experiencing to better help them.
Offer both physical and emotional support moving forward
It’s important that, during this time, you’re helping your friend both physically and emotionally. This means regularly checking in with them and lending an ear when they feel the need to discuss their feelings, while also providing them with support by doing day-to-day tasks that may currently be too draining and difficult to follow through on. Whether that means doing something as simple as taking out their trash or something bigger and more time consuming like helping them get to appointments with a therapist or counselor, a little help goes a long way.
Give them space when they need it and distractions when they want them
As a friend, it can be easy to try to involve ourselves too much in our friend’s life if we believe that they’re struggling. However, if we push too hard, we may end up getting pushed away in return. Make sure to listen to your friend and to respond appropriately. If they need space to deal with their traumatic experience on their own, give it to them. If they find that they do need you or simply want to go do something fun to distract themselves from the feelings of guilt or sadness, provide them with the support that they need in that moment. Otherwise, we may end up making their lives harder rather than easier.
Remember, you don’t have to say anything
Some people feel the need to offer wisdom when their friend is speaking with them about something difficult. The truth is that it can sometimes be better to listen without responding. Unless your friend is specifically asking for advice, just being there for them can often be a positive thing. Sometimes, saying nothing can be better than trying to provide a generic response or offering unwanted and unsolicited advice.
Watching a friend grieve can be hard, but it’s ultimately their journey to work through. However, that doesn’t mean that we have to sit by without being able to take action. If you have a grieving friend who needs support and you want to know how you can provide them with the help that they need, use the tips above to become the most excellent friend you can be during this time.