How to Support a Grieving Friend
It is difficult when a friend you care about is dealing with the death of a loved one. Death and grief can be create feelings of awkwardness, anxiety and general uncertainty in regards to what you should say or do to a friend who is grieving. If you are struggling to support a grieving friend, consider the following methods that will help you provide support in a meaningful way.
Research grief and the grieving process
Before you contact your friend, it’s important to do some research on grief and the grieving process. This will help you familiarize yourself with what to expect while also helping you to avoid pitfalls that might make your friend feel upset. Remember, someone who is grieving might feel depressed, angry, anxious; they might say or do things that they normally wouldn’t.
Check in regularly--and listen
Many people underestimate just how meaningful it can be to simply check in on a friend. Sending a text message or voice mail that asks them how they’re doing can mean the difference between feeling alone and abandoned, and feeling cared for and loved. If they do want to talk, keep your own words to a minimum: listen, above all, and let them do the talking.
Do not offer generic "whatever you need" help
Instead of offering generic “whatever you need” help, offer your friend specific types of practical help. People who are grieving are often told that people will help with “whatever they need,” but this often feels like a platitude that won’t be followed up. Instead, offer to go pick up their groceries; to vacuum their carpet; to do a load of dishes you see in the sink. Small practical gestures are worth far more than broad platitudes.
Write down anniversaries and other important days
It is important to check in with a grieving friend on days that are likely to be considered “higher” on the scale of grief, such as wedding anniversary if their spouse has died; a birthday for a child who died; and so on. Write down these dates so that you’ll remember to check in and see how they’re doing. Depending on how close you are, you may even offer to help them with whatever they want to do that day, such as visiting a cemetery, going out to eat, or simply hanging out.
Offer to visit the cemetery with your friend
Someone who is grieving may feel too overwhelmed to visit a cemetery on their own. Offering to go with them can be a kind gesture that helps them feel more comfortable visiting. If they have an audio/video system like AFTR, you can offer to visit “virtually” with them, as this might be less overwhelming than visiting the site in person.
Erase platitudes from your vocabulary
Finally, if you want to provide support to a grieving friend, you need to erase generic platitudes from your vocabulary. No one wants to hear platitudes such as “They’re in a better place,” “They wouldn’t want you to be sad,” and so on. These platitudes diminish real feelings of grief and make it difficult for a grieving friend to express themselves.