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Sometimes the words “I’m sorry” alone are not enough. There are different ways to help someone you love as they’re going through a difficult time. When you’re looking for unique and thoughtful ways to show a friend that you care for them when they need it the most, here’s how to best support a grieving friend.
1. Send a Cuddly Friend — After a devastating loss, whether that loss is of a loved one or a job, it helps to have something to hold onto. Even if you’re able to see your friend in person, you can’t be there for them 24/7. Send them a cuddly stuffed animal friend that your friend can hold when they’re feeling sad, stressed or lonely. It doesn’t matter how old they are. People of all ages can benefit from holding their favorite animal near and dear to their hearts when they’re grieving.
2. Acknowledge the Loss — It’s important to acknowledge your friend’s loss. They may be surrounded by people who downplay or even totally ignore or deny their loss. Be that person for your friend who is there for them in their time of need. While the words “I’m sorry. I’m here for you” don’t always feel like enough, sometimes that’s all a person needs to hear.
3. Be a Companion — Be there for your friend by keeping them company. It could be as simple as jumping on a Zoom call with them. It might be showing up at the door with a care package after you hear the news. Take them out to dinner or help them get groceries. Ask your friend how they’re feeling that day and how you can be a helpful companion for them.
Source: Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock.com
4. Be Understanding — Grief manifests in different ways for everybody. While some may cry uncontrollably, others may get angry. Some may try to use dark humor to make light of the situation. Someone else may withdraw and try to keep to themselves for a while. However, while your friend is trying to navigate the gray area of grief, be understanding that it’s a process. Healing isn’t a straight and narrow line.
5. Show You Care — Continue to show your friend that you care, even after it seems like their grieving period is over. There will be people who tell you you’re fine because they don’t want you worrying about them, but it’s up to you as their friend to know how sincere these blanket statements are. Show your friend that you care in thoughtful ways that are true to you and would be appreciated by your grieving friend. You can bake them cookies if they have a sweet tooth. Send them a postcard if they would appreciate a handwritten note.
6. Offer Specific Help — According to the Recovery Village, grief doesn’t only happen to someone when someone they love passes away. Grief could also mean losing a job, going through a divorce or even the end of a friendship. Because grief can take many forms and cover a wide variety of situations, that means when you’re offering help to a friend, help out in a way that’s specifically helpful to them. You can offer to bring dinner over one night so they don’t have to worry about cooking or ordering take-out. Help clean their kitchen or walk their dog.
7. Lend an Ear — When listening to your friend talk about how they’re grieving, listen to understand. Don’t listen to respond. Offer active listening responses, so they know you’re really listening and are actively engaged in the conversation. You can ask open-ended questions when appropriate. Let them know you’re simply listening by nodding your head, holding their hand or just giving them a hug.
8. Don’t Judge — Don’t be judgmental of your friend’s experience. If it initially seems like your friend is overreacting to the situation, don’t be that person that tells them they’re being dramatic. If it’s hard for you to understand what they’re going through, you don’t have to understand their experience to understand that your friend is grieving. Your job as their friend isn’t to necessarily be purely empathetic to their situation. It’s to make sure you’re there for them as a friend, to support them in their time of need.
9. Don’t Compare It to Your Own Experiences — If your friend is dealing with the loss of their spouse, don’t compare it to you losing your grandparent a few years ago. Try to avoid any conversation about your own similar experiences unless they ask for your input or advice. Your experiences may be similar, but they’re still different because everyone’s experience is unique. Allow your friend to grieve in their own way so they can stay in the moment to start their healing process.
10. Avoid Toxic Positivity — Whatever you do, don’t try and make light of the situation. Doing so can lead to the slippery slope of toxic positivity. Sometimes a situation is simply awful, and your friend doesn’t need to hear a positive quote or be told to “cheer up.” Let your friend be sad. Let your friend be mad. Let your friend go through all the emotions and eventually they can be happy when they’re ready.