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The Best Way to Help a Grieving Friend


We genuinely want to help, but don't know how; so, the first thing that comes to mind is to say something to make our friend feel better, even if for a brief moment. After offering our condolences, this usually is followed with sharing a story of how we got through a similar painful period of loss.

Empathy is good and might offer a moment of solace; however, in most cases, this is not the most effective action to take when helping someone who is coping with the loss of a loved one, especially during those first hours and days following the loss. Although your incident of loss might be similar in relationship (i.e., you both loss your spouse, mother, child, etc.) or the event causing the loss might be similar (i.e., car accident, suicide, murder, etc.), our relationships with our deceased loved ones are all very unique... one that only you and the deceased shared. This is why there is no Standard Operating Procedure (S.O.P.) for grief and loss, or no right or wrong way for an individual to grieve.

As surprising, maybe even difficult, as this might seem, one of the more effective ways to help a grieving friend is to listen. Yes, listen without trying to fix the person's grief. The emotions of grief and loss can't be fixed as they are normal and natural and must be experienced to get through the grief journey. Even these emotions are unique to each individual, so there is no right or wrong way to feel at this time. One person may cry, while another remains stoic. One may frequently visit the gravesite, while another might not feel the reasoning to visit at all. One might take an extended vacation following the death, while another might feel this act is disrespectful to the deceased.

So, try to steer clear of your advice during this time. What can you do? Let the friend know that you are there for them. Take on any chores or responsibilities that you know need to be tended to, i.e., picking up children from school, doing grocery shopping or laundry, etc. Call or visit to let them know you are thinking of them. Do whatever you feel will express your care and concern for your friend. They will share, if and when they feel comfortable in doing so; and, what do you do then? Be a good friend and listen without fixing.

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