Losing a loved one is one of the most challenging and perhaps complex human experiences. This often leaves a grieving individual on an emotional rollercoaster trying to navigate what many call a “new normal”. Not only does the road ahead feel dark at times, but those close to the grieving person often feel unsure and even unqualified to know how to respond in a way that communicates love and support. Engaging with the grief of a friend or family member is a delicate process and can be daunting. Offering empathy and practical support can make a significant difference in their healing journey. Our hope is to share a few helpful ways in which you can offer a guiding light to a friend in grief.
1. **Be Present and Listen**: Often, the most powerful support is not your eloquent words, but your presence. Don’t have any expectations, or judgments, but be mindful to offer them the space to express their pain, feelings, or tears.
2. **Offer Practical Help**: Acknowledge that grief can cause everyday tasks to feel overwhelming. Practical help may be the most heartfelt gift. This can include helping with picking up kids from school or activities, taking over dinner, packing lunches, helping with setting up Christmas lights or assisting your friend with buying or wrapping Christmas gifts. Small acts of kindness means a lot.
3. **Respect Their Grieving Process**: Acknowledge that grief is a unique and individual experience. This means that everyone copes differently. It is therefore important not to assign any timeline or societal norms to their grieving process.
4. **Check-In Regularly**: Their “new normal” gets illuminated after the funeral and grief may linger for a long time. The first of everything, e.g., the first holiday season, can be particularly hard. Check in regularly, even after some time has passed. This demonstrates care, love and support and shows that you continue to care about their well-being.
5. **Support Professional Help**: Sometimes, we all need professional guidance when trying to cope with significant loss. This may be particularly helpful to encourage therapy or support groups to navigate their loss and fears while building a new safe space.
Practicum Student Counselor