Dealing with Grief: How to help your friends manage and get better.

NH Lifestyle Articles                                              

Helping Friends Deal With Grief
Tips for when hard times come!

Losing a family member or dealing with a broken relationship can be tough and even tougher if someone you love is doing the grieving. It seems like few people ever know the right words to say and knowing what to say or do can seem elusive.

Here are some tips to help a grieving friend come out of the distress:

Ask how (they're) doing: Instead of saying anything, first listen. Get an insight of how he or she is feeling before offering your thoughts or suggestions. To be genuinely heard is their first need, rather than well meaning suggestions about how to move on.

Understand that grief responses vary: Every person deals with grief differently. Some may cry a lot, a few may seem indifferent or stoic, some maybe angry while others might become completely silent. Be ready to accommodate unpredictable outbursts or long spells of silence.

Sometimes it's hard to help a grieving friend!Don't expect quick progress: Depending on the severity of loss, it may take considerable time for someone to get back to normal life. Grieving is normal, so don't expect too much too soon.

Stay positive: Stay personally positive, but avoid admonishing your friend to do so. Rather encourage the efforts that he or she is making to cope with the situation.

Avoid comparisons: Do not compare her hardship with someone else's. The underlying situation might be different or feel different to the bereaved. Show respect for the person and the journey they are going through.

Allow (them) to grieve: Do not press someone to talk as they might not be yet ready to share their feelings. Often the biggest support you can give is to sit with them and let them share whatever they wish, whenever they are ready. Don't fear their tears: it's natural! It's hard to watch adults cry, but it's completely ok.

Talk about the deceased: Share your favorite memory about their lost loved one. Don't dwell on it, but don't be afraid to talk about someone who has passed away.

Provide ongoing support: Providing support to someone in grief is not a onetime task. Everyone helps the bereaved the first week or so. In the following weeks they'll have less support and will need your time, and your strong shoulder perhaps even more.

Anticipate difficult occasions: Special days, such as birthdays or anniversaries, might make coping even harder for a grieving friend. Make sure you are there on such days to offer your care and support.

Watch for warning signs: Eating and sleeping difficulties can afflict those with recent losses. Adjustment is hard. However, if after a few weeks there are continuing eating, sleeping or concentration issues, or your friend is becoming increasing isolated, it's time to take some action. Gently speak to your friend, share your concerns, and ask how you may help. Call a crisis hotline if you feel intervention might be necessary.

It's natural that you want to see your friend happy again, but normalcy only returns with time. The object isn't to help your friend 'exit' his or her grief, but with every day, experience it a little less. Make gentle offers/gestures to 'interrupt' the grief as soon as your friend is ready but especially after a couple weeks have passed: see a movie, go out to dinner, take a walk, etc.

If you can think of grieving as 'physical therapy' for a fractured heart it will help you to understand the needs better. BOTH work and play are needed to get your friend back to a full, normal life but it does take time.

More Information:
Dealing With Grief (4 Part Series)
How to Help a Grieving Friend
How to Help Grieving People (.pdf)


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