A friend of mine just lost a loved one. I found myself lost for words or actions as to how I can help or make her feel any better. An awkward “sorry for your loss” obviously did not make the cut. I dare not say more because what if I say the wrong thing? I was her friend and I needed to make her feel better. But how?
As a friend or relative of someone whom has just lost a loved one, you truly would like to help the grieving individual. However, many are often loss for words or simply do not know how to deal with a situation that is so volatile. There is truly no perfect way to help, however there are some ways to help. Here are 5 ways to support the grieving friend.
Look into their practical needs
Bereaved individuals are sometimes so consumed in the grieving process that they tend to forgo their practical needs. Some may not have eaten or had a sip of water because they are too busy looking into funeral arrangements. Some would not have done groceries because groceries are obviously not what they are thinking about. You as a friend can look into these needs. Offer your assistance in subtle manners. You could ask them, “I am dropping by the supermarket. Do you need anything?” Bring them a glass of water, drop off some food, and look after their pet. You will be doing them a great deal of help.
The passing of a loved one can be a painful experience, whether expected or unexpected. Every individual have different timelines when grief is concerned. Understand that some may not want to talk about it. Some people may have different ways of expressing grief. Some may not express it at all. There is really no right or wrong way to grieve. You as a friend should be the last person to judge the grieving individual.
Small gestures may speak volumes, compared to words. For example, placing your hand on the shoulder of the bereaved, or a warm hug can do a great deal. If the grieving individual cries, let them. Do not ask them to stop. Being overwhelmed by emotions, the grieving individual would appreciate tiny gestures of support.
When the bereaved is ready to speak, be there to lend a listening ear. Do keep in mind that they would probably be ready to speak about their loss a week or a year after. No matter when, be there. Do not force them to open up earlier. Do not try to change the subject when the name of the deceased is brought up, try to remain casual. Ask sensitive questions when appropriate and try not to be too nosy.
Do not try to fix the situation
Whatever that happened is an event of the past. No matter what you do, you cannot fix the situation and it is best to not try to. Some people try to offer words of comfort such as “the deceased is in a better place” or “the kindhearted are always the first to leave”, trying to fix the situation. But the bereaved is probably not interested to hear such statements, at least not while they are mourning. As much as things are said or done out of good intention, know the timing and let the bereaved run their very own mourning course. All they need is to know that you are there to support them at each step of the way.
Kiirtaara is a proud 24 year old Malaysian from the small town of Ipoh. She is a Bachelor of Psychology (Hons) graduate and is currently a part-time freelance writer with a full time job. She is also a huge mental-health enthusiast and avid animal lover.