Grief is real, consuming, and heavy. When something tragic happens, we are left to wonder how we are possibly supposed to continue moving on throughout our life and daily activities. We get this unbearable feeling of wishing that the world could just pause for one second so that we can catch our breath and pick up the pieces of our broken heart.
When my dad died unexpectantly, just last April, I experienced the lowest, most depressing moment of my entire life. I wasn’t even aware that I could experience pain that great and that deep beforehand. And it is in those dark seasons of severe sadness and emotional (and physical pain), grief can actually become our greatest teacher. For the one grieving and the ones who are around you.
With that, how do we support our grieving friends? By what means do we help them in this incredible time of need? How do we engage pain when we’ve never experienced their type of loss? And how do we meet their needs, bring comfort, and offer hope? True, meaningful friendships are built when things fall apart. Grief may be big and overpowering, but the love and support that you have for your friend need to be bigger. I didn’t have many people there for me when my dad died. Even those who I thought were true friends.
You tend to realize who really cares about you when you’re in the middle of the darkest, most traumatic moment of your life. However, it’s within these traumatic times where we can walk into each other’s sadness and offer hope. In times of great loss, pain, and confusion, the greatest gift we are given is each other. And you have an incredible power to help your friend heal in a truly difficult and confusing time.
I truly hope this helps anyone who is currently looking for any advice on how to support a grieving friend! 💛
1. Show up in any way that you can
Send them a handwritten note. Stop by their house. Bring them a coffee or a meal. Offer to take their dog for a walk. Drop off a (non-grief-related) book or movie that you think they may enjoy. Clean their house for them. Pick them up and go for a drive or a peaceful walk around the park. Come to their house one evening with some pens and start helping them tackle their condolence replies. Do any little thing you can – trust me, it makes a huge impact on the one who is grieving.
What’s not very helpful? Saying something like, “let me know if you need anything” or “let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.” Or even trying to compare your situation to theirs. Although many people say it with good intentions, all it’s really saying is, “I want to do something nice for you, however, I don’t have the time, energy, creativity, or benevolence to figure out how.”
Grief oftentimes makes it difficult to recognize what you truly need, let alone articulate it to someone else. Even if that someone else is a close friend, partner, or family member. It can be hard to ask for help when you need it. Therefore, don’t make your friend (who is already going through enough pain) ask you for help. Show up in any way that you possibly can!
2. Reach out to them
It can be hard to go through each day for someone who is grieving or who’s struggling with losing a loved one. Therefore, they sometimes shut themselves in and tend to hideaway. Although it may seem like they want or even need their alone time, your friend will greatly appreciate the effort of you taking the time to reach out.
Personally, there were (and honestly, still are) days where I didn’t feel like seeing or even talking to anyone. And even though there were days where I felt too bad to go out and do things that I once enjoyed, it didn’t mean that I didn’t appreciate those who still tried to get me to do things.
Even if you get rejected each time you try to reach out, keep doing it. Keep reaching out because it shows your grieving friend that you’re thinking about them, and that you care about them. Trust me, no matter how bad your friend may feel, they will thank you for it. I know for me, many of my friends didn’t know how to show up after my dad died.
Additionally, ask your friends what days are the most special. Anniversary dates, birthdays, holidays, etc. Mark those dates in your calendar and set a reminder to check in on your friend on those specific days. Even the smallest outreach – a text message, DM, or a voicemail, etc. – can mean the very most to your friend. Especially in the first year but also in the years that go on after that.
3. Don’t be pushy
Judging from my experience, when someone is grieving over a loss, many times they don’t like to open up about their problems or their pain. Therefore, if your friend is not ready to talk, don’t try to keep forcing them into a conversation.
Many times, when I would be with my friends, I would use that time to try and forget about what I’m currently going through. I would spend time with my friends and loved ones to try to add some normality into what was going on in my life at that moment. In fact, I still do this time to time even though it has been 8 months since my dad’s passing. Therefore, when your friend is hanging out with you, they may not want to bring up all of the sadness and pain that they are going through. Give them space and when they’re ready, they’ll confide in you.
4. Listen to them
Going along with that, part of being a good friend and being there for someone is having the ability to listen. It’s hard to realize what your friend may be going through if you have never experienced a loss like theirs before. And in those moments where your friend is struggling very hard, be sure to listen to them. Your friend may want to talk about why they miss the person their grieving over what it is specifically that they miss the most. They may want to talk about happy memories or sad ones. About situations where they have significantly dealt with their loss. About painful and difficult grueling emotions that they are feeling that they normally wouldn’t share with anyone else. Let them. And be sure to listen to them.
Listen. Provide comfort, whether that’s a shoulder for them to cry on, a Kleenex, a hug, or by providing reassuring words such as “I hear you,” “I’m here for you,” and “I know how difficult this might be.”
With that, don’t try to fix it and don’t feel like you have to fix it. Most of the time, the one who is grieving isn’t looking for statements such as “everything happens for a reason,” or “you’ll feel better soon.” That only makes the person who is grieving feel worse. It causes them to feel like their emotions and pain is invalid, like their grieving period is taking too long, or that they shouldn’t be hurting this much. I know for me, those types of statements, unfortunately, just caused me to feel angry and resentment towards the person who was trying to make me feel better.
5. Be understanding about their process
Sit with your grieving friend and be understanding about their process. Don’t let it push you away and don’t wait for your friend to “feel better.” Grief doesn’t have a timeline. It’s with your forever, in various sizes and in numerous different intensities. Think of it as waves. Grief can come in small or mightly waves at any day at any time.
Listen to their grief and just be there for them. Whether it’s a month after their loss or years after their loss. They’re still grieving. Therefore, most of the time, all your friend truly needs is someone to hear them out and allow them to release their pain, sorrow, and grief out loud. Other times, they may want to be left alone for a little while. Remember that everyone grieves differently. Don’t expect them to “get over it” within a matter of months or even years. The best way to support a grieving friend is by listening to them, showing up for them, and understanding the process through all of the sorrow and the grief. That’s the best thing you do in order to help your friend truly heal!
It’s also very crucial that you give your friend lots of grace as well. Your friend is grieving and in pain. With that, they may lash out or surprise you with any words they might unexpectantly say. If they let their guard down and begin to open up to you about their pain, be sure to lean in and listen. Creating space and an opportunity for them to share their experiences is healing. Real friends lean into the pain and don’t get tired of listening. With their words and actions, true friends respond tenderly and say, “I’m here for you,” “tell me again,” or “keep going.”
Loss and grief is a tough subject. Especially when your best friend is experiencing a devastating loss that you can’t relate to, or even think about comprehending. It’s definitely not something we ever wish to experience, but when it happens, it can be very difficult to bounce back.
Therefore, if your friend is going through a very rough time, do your best to be patient and understanding! Keep in mind that they really need you right now, even if they aren’t asking for your help.
I hope this post was helpful for any of you who are looking for any advice when trying to support a grieving friend!
How do you support a grieving friend?
Please leave any advice of your own in the comments – whether you’re the person grieving or the friend.💛