Your friend just lost their spouse, their sibling, their spouse, their parent…. now what? How do you as a friend, be there for them during the grieving process?
In this article you’ll find some helpful tips on how to still be their friend, though things might feel differently at the moment.
This goes for friends, spouses, family members, co worker, who ever!
As someone who is living through grief, I can personally vouch for these tips. My brother was killed in 2013 during a tragic work related incident at the young age of 24 and my family has been living through grief since then. We each go through it in our own way and in our own time, but these tips, I think we would all agree with.
And I can’t stress this one enough. Understand that your friend will never be “the same.” Yes, you heard me correctly. Your friend is no longer the friend that they were before, so never ask them to go back to who they were. It’s simply not possible. Will they still enjoy doing things with you that they used to do? Of course. But there are aspects of them that will forever be changed. And you as their friend need to respect and accept that change. And let them know that you understand. Example: They just lost their parent due to cancer. Asking them to go to watch a movie about a cancer patient… probably not the best idea. Even if you want to watch the movie, you can let them know it’s okay to watch something else.
Understand that you don’t get over grief. You go THROUGH it. The grieving process truly never ends, it just changes. And it doesn’t always go in a singular line. If you google “grieving process” you’ll find five stages. Denial & isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. Many people assume these go in order and once you get to acceptance, hooray it’s over! That would be incorrect. Each person will take a unique amount of time in each stage, and in their own order. And just because they hit “acceptance” doesn’t mean that they won’t circle back around to another stage. They may have a six months of acceptance, then drop back down into a depression. You as their friend, need to watch for these signs, so you can tell which stage they are in, and how you can help through each stage.
Be consistent. If your friend is in the isolation stage, this is incredibly hard. How can you be there for someone, who doesn’t want you there? Show up to their house, don’t talk, just show up. See dirty dishes? Clean them. Yard needs mowed? Mow it. Drop off dinner, or a tub of their favorite ice cream. Don’t invade their needed space, but BE there. Show them that you are still there.
Be yourself. People are always afraid of saying the wrong thing. And truth is, at some point you probably will. But you’ll pick up on that, move on and learn from it. Have normal conversations with them, like you would any other time!
Don’t avoid the deceased. Don’t assume that because they are grieving, that they don’t want to hear or talk about the person that is gone. Tell them a story that they maybe haven’t heard before. Go through your pictures and see if you have any of the deceased that they might not have. Pictures a priceless.
Don’t act like the deceased doesn’t exist. I often hear “He was your only sibling? Oh, so now you are an only child.” That is incorrect. I still have a brother, he is simply in a different location than me. A mother who loses a child is still that child’s mother, a husband who loses a wife is still her husband.
You see, it’s just simply about being there. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.
And this is where our phrase comes from. Because my brother lived life to the fullest, and so should all of us.
LIVE LIFE BIG