How to Help a Friend Who Has Lost Someone
Perhaps the only thing worse than experiencing the grief of a loved one’s passing firsthand is watching a friend go through it. The following tips will help if you’re feeling a little lost and unsure of what to say (or not say) and do to help a bereaved friend. You can watch the video in exactly 1 minute or take a bit of time to read the post:
Reach out often
Don’t wait for a friend who’s recently lost a loved one to reach out – or assume that they will call or text you when they’re finally “ready.” Grief alters every aspect of a person’s life and they may feel too overwhelmed to reach out themselves – so don’t be too quick to assume their silence means they need space or don’t want to talk to you. And don’t stop checking in after a month or two have gone by. The grieving process is often long and lonely and regularly being reminded that someone loves and is thinking of them can make an enormous difference.
Making the extra effort to reach out on holidays and important dates like birthdays and anniversaries is another impactful way you can be supportive. For many, the week or two leading up to a meaningful date can be even harder than the day itself – so set a reminder to give your friend a little extra support during those times.
Actively help out with practical tasks
While nearly everyone has a well-meaning “just let me know if you need anything!” to offer a bereaved friend, most of the time someone who is grieving isn’t going to reach out and ask to cash in on that offered help. So be proactive. Make offers to do specific things like help with meals, household chores, babysitting or grocery shopping – then show up and follow through.
Remember, it’s important to always ask your friend before taking a task into your own hands. It’s possible that they won’t be ready to have any items that remind them of their deceased loved one (even those that might strike you as odd or insignificant) moved, washed, or tossed out.
Talk about their loved one
You might be concerned that bringing up the person who has passed will upset your friend or make them feel worse. But most of the time, the opposite is true. Sharing stories and memories and speaking of the deceased person by name is often one of the things someone who is grieving will find the most comfort in. Follow your friend’s lead, of course, and don’t push the subject if they don’t want to talk about it right away. Also, keep in mind that it rarely brings any comfort to announce that a deceased loved one is “in a better place.” And nearly any sentence that begins with “at least…” is likely to come across as insensitive and invalidating to the genuine pain your friend is experiencing.
Be willing to listen without needing to “fix” it
We know listening to someone you care about sharing their painful emotions can feel excruciatingly uncomfortable. But pushing through that discomfort to give your friend the presence of a caring listener is sometimes the most helpful thing you could possibly do. Of course, the impulse to “fix” problems is a strong one, and you may feel tempted to try and cheer your friend up or otherwise jump into problem-solving mode. But resist this impulse as much as humanly possible. Uncomfortable though it may be, holding space and listening without inserting your own input or advice is one of the greatest ways to help a grief-stricken friend.