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Helping Someone Who is Grieving

Do you know someone who is grieving? How can you help?

Listen. Before you do anything else, just listen. Most people feel uncomfortable when a friend or a family member is grieving; this can cause some tension or uncertainty about what to say. Before you begin to try to make someone feel better, just listen. Your physical presence and desire to listen without judging are essential in helping others. Don’t worry so much about what you will say, nothing you can say will lessen the pain, but your unconditional presence and attentive ear will. One of the most important things to remember is that you can’t fix what happened and you can’t pull out a magic wand and make it go away, however, never underestimate the powerful impact of a listening friend.

Have compassion. Make sure the person you are with feels free to express their feelings without fear of criticism or judgment. Learn and understand. Don’t give your opinion or advise or set expectations. Here are some tips on what not to say:

  1. This will pass

  2. Give it time

  3. Be strong

  4. You will get over it soon enough

  5. Don’t cry

  6. Don’t feel like that

  7. I understand how you feel

  8. Make the most of it.

  9. Your loved one is in a better place

  10. This is God’s will

  11. Don’t be sad

The truth is that people mean well. However, most don’t know what to say at a time of loss. You might even feel like not asking about the loved one that died or not bringing it up for fear of hurting your friend or family member. Remember that grief is an individual process, and everyone feels different. Most often, people want to talk about their loved one but fear to bring it up because they feel judged or because they fear hearing another heartless comment. This is why listening with compassion is so important.

Be there. Many times, there is an over pouring of love and support for the grieving person, but often, after a few weeks, support decreases. The grieving friend is left to grieve on their own as contact with others becomes less frequent. Again, nobody wants to upset the grieving person by bringing up the loved one or even asking how they are doing.

Talk with your grieving friend and find out what is her preference and remember that what might work one day may not the next day, grief is unpredictable and has no rules. Your ongoing and reliable presence is one of the most special gifts you can give.

Remember, you cannot take the pain away, but you can join her by being there for your friend or family member. Stay close and be available even months after the loss.

Here is probably the most important thing you need to know. You are not responsible for making her feel better; you cannot change the events or outcome; you can only be there for her, literally be there. There will be times when your friend or family member may fall apart; this is ok. Give them time and space to express whatever emotion they may be feeling. Grief is hard; there is no timeline or wrong way to grieve. The only cure for grief is to grieve.