How to Help a Friend through the Grieving Process

By: Ian Elliott
Friday, April 29, 2016

If a friend has recently lost a loved one, you may feel hesitant to bring up the topic for fear of upsetting them. Silence from friends, no matter how well intentioned, or pretending everything is normal, can make the griever feel even more isolated and depressed.  

The most important thing you can do is to let your friend know that you care and will be there for emotional support and help.

Understanding the Basics of Grieving

  • There is no set timeline for recovery. The grieving process can go on for years, and your friend may feel an emptiness that may never completely go away. However with time, your friend’s pain will lessen.
     
  • Everyone grieves differently. Depending on the type of relationship your friend had with the decedent, whether it was an intimate relationship or a troubled one, will affect the grieving process and the feelings that follow.
     
  • Understand the stages of grieving.
  1. Shock, disbelief or numbness. The bustle and constant visitors that accompany a funeral may make your friend feel like they are on auto-pilot. They may not have had time alone to process their feelings.
     
  2. Confrontation with the loss. At this stage, your friend may feel intense feelings of loss and pain. Symptoms vary widely from depression, lack of appetite, withdrawing socially, anger to guilt. This is the time your friend needs your support the most.
     
  3. Acceptance of loss. Your friend has managed to deal with the loss in their daily life.

Be aware that people may put on a strong outward appearance which may not reflect how they are truly feeling.

Things Not to Say

  • “They are in a better place now.” Everyone has different beliefs about the afterlife. This statement might be against your friend’s belief system.
     
  • “It was part of a master plan.” This often brings out anger as the griever has no control over any master plan.
     
  • Avoid phrases that begin with, “You should…” These types of phrases often sound pushy, so instead rephrase your sentence with, “Have you thought about doing…”

Tips for Helping a Friend

  • Make a point of regularly checking in either by phone or in person. While it may be easier to communicate through social media or texting, it’s not quite the same as hearing a familiar voice.
     
  • Offer to help with something specific. Instead of saying, “Call if you ever need anything,” it would be more helpful to say, “I made a lasagna for you. When may I drop it off?”
     
  • Listen without feeling the need to offer suggestions. Many times, a grieving person just wants to talk about their feelings or reminisce about their loved one. The ability to simply listen is golden.
     
  • Be sensitive to special occasions. Feelings of grief are often more intense during special holidays such as Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries. Offer to spend the day with them, or extend an invitation to a dinner, but understand that they may just want to be alone.
     
  • Know when to get help. If your friend has shown a sudden change in behaviour or has displayed signs of depression for a long period (over a year), gently suggest they speak with a therapist or join a support group.

Arbutus Funeral Service is a family-owned funeral home in Langley, BC.  For help with all matters of funeral arrangements, please call us at 604-888-9895 or contact us anytime.

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