How Do You Help a Grieving Friend? Memorial High School February 22, 2012 FAS
A Good Start… Simply being silent with your friend can give him or her strength, and help him/her mourn in a healthy way.
Quote by Henri Nouwen “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.” “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
How Do You Help a Grieving Friend? • Coping with grief is an individual process, but there are stages of grief that most people go through. • Part of supporting a sad friend is accepting that the stages of grief are a natural part of the mourning process. Let your friend mourn in her own way. • The stages of grief are disbelief, yearning, anger, depression and acceptance.
It’s a difficult time when your friend loses a loved one – be real • It takes an enormous amount of energy to “be strong” or look “normal.” Many would win Oscars for their performances, looking and acting as they did before so their friends would not be uncomfortable. • In actuality they are trying to discover what their new “normal” is, and that takes time. Just because people look good doesn’t mean they feel good, so don’t let the façade fool you. • Your mourning friend may need someone to acknowledge that this is a difficult time.
Listen to your friend without judgment or interruptions • Help a grieving friend by taking him/her out for dinner and offering to listen. Ask him/her to tell you all about their loss. • Coping with grief is more difficult when there’s nobody to talk to; a good friend just listens.
Don’t accept “I’m fine” from your friend • Ask your friends how they feel — and don’t let them get away with “I’m fine.” We are so polite in our society that we don’t want to burden others with our problems. • Ask your friend how they feel many months after the death. In the beginning, people are in shock and the pain sometimes takes months to hit. By then the world feels you should be “getting over it”! • To support mourning friends, don’t just ask when you see them at school or at a social function. Pick up the phone and call. • You may feel awkward and helpless when your friend is mourning, but don’t let your own feelings of discomfort stop you from reaching out.
Keep reaching out to your friend • Sometimes they don’t know what they need and don’t have the energy to figure it out, so it would be better if you figure out what your friend needs and just do it. • If it is an invitation to go somewhere, don’t be offended if you are turned down. Keep asking. • Everyday is different and by continuing to ask you are staying in touch and connecting with someone who is in pain. • Continuing to invite someone will let him or her know you are there for him or her and you care.
Watch for unhealthy reactions, such as depression • Keep an eye on your friend for unhealthy responses to death, such as physical signs of depression, extreme weight loss, or social isolation. • If your friend really seems to be struggling through the mourning process, talk to a grief expert or contact a grief support group.
Locate helpful resources about grief, death, or support groups • When your friend is dealing with death, divorce, or loss, she may not think she needs grief support groups or grief counseling. • Maybe his or her mourning is too fresh to seek help — but in the future, he or she may be grateful for information about grief support.