4 Ideas for Supporting a Grieving Friend
Most of us are familiar with the Stages of Grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Though the Kübler-Ross model has been around since the 1960s, it is important to note we cope with loss differently. Some go through the stages in order, others skip around, and others find it impossible to even classify feelings of grief.
But have you ever considered that grief is more than mourning the loss of a loved one? Loss can extend to other areas of life such as health, finances, identity, or a home.
Supporting a friend during a period of grief is the hallmark of friendship. But just as everyone experiences loss differently, how to support a grieving friend will change from situation to situation — or even from day to day.
Feeling inadequate or unqualified to help is common. But here are 4 ways to help a grieving friend during and after funeral.
It sounds trite, and so simple, but making yourself available is paramount. A genuine, heartfelt “I’m here when you need me” gives your friend the space to grieve and lets them know you’re there when they are ready, without forcing it. But you know your friend best, if they are withdrawing and not talking things through when they’re usually a chatterbox, some gentle prodding might be in order.
If the two of you habitually meet up for a front porch coffee date, keep them on the calendar. Your friend will need a sense of normalcy now more than ever. If a girls’ night out is a monthly hurrah, but your BFF lost her job and is stressed about finances, suggest a cozy potluck at your home. That way you can enjoy the company but offer a less-stressful solution.
Though the offer of “if I can do anything,” is often spoken at funerals and during periods of mourning, it’s frequently difficult for someone to reach out when in the depths of grief. They might not even know what they need. Shovel the drive after a winter snow. Offer to watch the kids while your friend runs errands and do the dishes while you’re there. Or take them a milkshake in the middle of the afternoon if the inspiration strikes. Trust your intuition that you’ll know how to serve your friend when they need it most.
Be a Giver
Cards, flowers, casseroles, these are all time-honored expressions of sympathy. But cards get put in a box, cut flowers wilt, casseroles will be consumed and the dishes returned. The deluge of gifts can be especially overwhelming in the wake of a tragedy. Sometimes, the greatest gift you can give your friend is the gift of your time and special skillsets. Take command of organizing the gifts in a spreadsheet so your order-loving friend can write thoughtful notes when she can. Help address envelopes. But the most important thing? Don’t forget. It’s the first Christmas or Valentine’s Day without a husband that can hit the hardest. The first anniversary of a miscarriage. Send your cards and flowers then once everyone else has seemingly moved on.
Your friend loves you. So keep being you and maybe you’ll be able to help your friend feel like themself in time.