Several weeks ago, we talked about what the grieving process looks like, what we can do for ourselves when we are grieving, and when we need to make the decision to get ourselves some help. But from that conversation, another question arose. What can we do for someone we care about who is grieving the loss of someone important to him or her? Our own grief is sometimes easier to bear than the grief of someone else. Helping someone who is grieving can be difficult, because our instinct is usually to try to come up with some way to make the person who is grieving feel better, and we often feel so helpless to do so. Even though out intentions are good, we can easily say or do the wrong thing, or say and do nothing out of fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. While there is no such thing as the perfect response to the death of person who is important to someone who is important to you, there are some ways that you can be supportive.
Stick To The Things You Know To Be True
It is usually more comfortable for all of us to reiterate the platitudes that we have all heard about the death of a loved one. Things like how he or she is in a better place, or he or she is out of pain now. Stay away from the idea that the person you care about will eventually feel better. It is going to be more helpful for your loved one if you can help him or her deal with the present rather than focus on the future or the past. All you need to be able to say is that you are sorry that your friend is hurt, you hurt because he or she hurts, you love and care about him or her, and you are there whenever you are needed.
Let Exceptions To The Rules Be Okay
If the person who is grieving wants to talk about the past, do it. Talk things out. Talk about good things. Talk about bad things. Talk about anything. Sometimes this story telling about the life of the person who is no longer with you can be therapeutic. Also, if the person who is grieving wants to discuss the future and what it will look like without the person who is no longer with you, let that happen too.
Remember That This Grief Is Not Yours
While you may have some grief of your own regarding the death of this important person, you are not the focus here. Your relationship with the person you care about is going to be a bit lopsided for a while. The person you care about will not be able to be there to deal with your stresses, your angers, and your fears. You may start to feel ignored or resentful of all the time you spend helping someone without getting any consideration back for your efforts, but you need to come to terms with that. You are the supporter, not the supportee. If this means that you need to find some other people who can support you, take this opportunity to widen your support net and branch out.
Be Available, If You Can
It is okay for you to need to go on with your life. You should not let your work, school, or family suffer, but taking some extra time to be with your friend and be available for anything that he or she should need is advisable. That said, try to anticipate that your friend may want to talk or be distracted, but does not want to inconvenience you. Call him or her to check in, to make a lunch date, or tell him or her when you are coming over to help with mundane things that might be difficult right now such as walking the dog, taking out the trash, or cooking some meals.
Be a Buffer
What you friend might need most is time to grieve. And if he or she has many friends like you, it might be difficult to get some time alone. Tell your friend that you will gladly run interference between him or her and all of the other people who care. Tell him or her to turn on the voicemail and leave your number so that all of these caring people know that their message will be heard and that your friend knows he or she has lots of people to turn to for help in this incredibly difficult time.