21 August 2023
When a friend is grieving, it’s common to feel unsure about how to help. If you’re in that position, you’ve come to the right place.
The process of grief is deeply personal, and everyone experiences it differently. While you may wish to make things better for them, it’s essential to recognise that grief isn’t something to be ‘fixed’. Instead, it’s a journey to be respected.
With that in mind, here are some important dos and don’ts to bear in mind so you can be a supportive presence for your friend during such a challenging time.
Do’s: Genuine Ways to Offer Support
Listen Without Judgement
When someone is grieving, they’re often grappling with a whirlwind of emotions. They might feel anger, guilt, sadness, confusion, or even brief moments of happiness. As a supportive friend, your role is to provide a space where they can voice these feelings without fear of judgement.
How: Simply listen. Give them your full attention, making sure your body language is open, showing that you’re genuinely engaged in their story.
Why: Doing so reaffirms their feelings and experiences, helping them feel understood.
Offer Consistent Company
Grief can be isolating. Your friend might have days when they feel cut off from the world or moments when they just need someone by their side.
How: Regularly check in on them. This doesn’t always have to be a physical visit; a simple text message or a phone call can show that you’re thinking of them.
Why: Your consistent presence reminds them they’re not alone in their journey. Even if they don’t always answer or engage, knowing someone is thinking of them can be comforting.
Recognise the Individuality of Grief
No two people grieve in the same way. While one person may seek solace in solitude, another might find comfort in social activities.
How: Observe their behaviour and listen to their words. Are they hinting at wanting more time alone, or do they express a wish to be around others?
Why: Respecting and understanding their unique grieving process ensures they feel supported and not pressured to grieve in a ‘certain way’.
Help with Day-to-Day Tasks
The weight of grief can make everyday tasks seem daunting.
How: Offer specific assistance. Instead of saying, “Let me know if you need anything,” say, “Can I pick up some groceries for you tomorrow? Or would you like me to come over and cook dinner tonight?”
Why: By helping with daily tasks, you’re alleviating some of the pressures they’re facing, allowing them some respite to process their emotions.
Don’ts: Mistakes to Avoid
Steer Clear of Clichés
Though well-intentioned, words can sometimes miss the mark. Clichés can feel hollow during times of grief.
How: Rather than relying on common phrases, express genuine sentiments like, “I’m truly sorry for your loss,” or simply, “I’m here for you.”
Why: Genuine words provide more comfort than standard condolences.
Avoid Pushing for Closure
Grief isn’t linear. It has its ups and downs, and there’s no fixed timeline.
How: Respect their pace. Avoid suggesting activities or “getting back to normal” unless they express they’re ready.
Why: Allowing them to grieve at their own pace respects the sanctity of their grieving process.
Refrain from Comparing Grief
Even if you’ve experienced a loss, everyone’s relationship with grief is personal and unique.
How: When sharing your experiences, do so empathetically, ensuring it doesn’t come across as though you’re minimising their feelings or experiences.
Why: Recognising the uniqueness of their grief ensures they feel their emotions are validated.
Avoid Being Overly Positive
As a friend, we want to provide hope, but it’s important not to overshadow their genuine feelings.
How: Balance your optimism with understanding. Acknowledge their pain while also offering comforting words.
Why: This approach ensures they don’t feel their grief is being dismissed or that they need to constantly put on a brave face.
Being there for a friend during their time of grief is a delicate balancing act. By staying present, listening actively, and avoiding common missteps, you can offer the kind of warm, caring, and human support they truly need.
If your friend has mentioned wanting professional support to help them navigate their grief, they can book a free 30-minute consultation to see if I’m the right grief counsellor for them via the contact form below, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 07855 059 964.