How to Be a Supportive Friend to Someone who is Grieving
Research has shown that in the first 72 hours after a major loss the bereaved person will hear about 125 comments from well-meaning people. However only about 8% of those comments are helpful. Many people will try to change the subject when the griever most needs to talk about their experience. Other comments will suggest they should "not feel bad." These intellectual statements send the message to the hurting person that it is not okay to feel hurt, sad, angry or upset after the loss of a loved one. Click here for what NOT to say...
Here are some ideas to help:
- Invite the hurting person to share their experience of their loss or when they heard about it.
- Say, "I can't imagine how painful this is for you."
- Ask, "What was your relationship like?
- Offer a hug.
- Respect the griever's preference regarding alone time, but also make yourself available when they would like to talk about their feelings.
- Keep a supportive attitude no matter what feelings your friend shares (i.e. anger at God, sadness, etc.) You don't need to talk them out of their feelings. Simply listen and acknowledge.
- Take a curious stance: "What is it like to feel that way?"; "What makes it worse?"; "Is there anything that makes it better?"
- Let the griever teach you how to be a good friend in this time of need.
When grieving, many people wonder if their symptoms are normal. They wonder what "stage of grief" they are in, and they may dread getting into another stage, such as anger. Recent research has debunked the
myth of "stages of grief".
Grief is the natural, human response to a significant loss. People experience and express grief in unique ways. No two losses are the same between people and even for the same person at different times. One can experience grief on multiple levels:
The bereaved frequently report the experience of having "waves of grief" that come and go, in a sometimes unpredictable fashion. Read more about the symptoms of grief...