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Supporting a Friend Through the Grieving Process.
When a friend goes through the loss of a loved one, sometimes we are hesitant to bring up the topic in fear of upsetting him/her. It can be tough to understand how that friend is grieving and find the right way to give them the support that they need. It may feel like they want their own space or act like everything is normal again, but in some cases this may make them feel even more depressed. The first step and and the most important one, is to voice that you care and you are there for them every step of the way.
Understanding the Basics of Grieving
- Grieving takes time and goes by the pace of the individual.
The grieving process can go on for a while and each individual is different. Some take months, for others it could take years. Your friend may feel an emptiness or a void in their life that nothing can fill just quite the same. However, with time, your friends pain will lessen.
- Everyone grieves in their own way.
Depending on the relationship your friend had with the deceased, whether it was an intimate one or a troubled one, it will affect the way your friend handles the grieving process. Different emotions arise depending on the type of relationship and the feelings it brings up for them.
Understanding the stages of grieving.
These stages are according to the American Cancer Society and can help you to understand what your friend may be feeling at this time of loss in their life.
- Shock, disbelief or numbness.
The first couple of weeks after the loss of a loved one can be busy for your friend and they may feel as if they are on auto-pilot, handling the constant visitors and bustle. They may not have had any time to themselves to let everything sink in.
- Confrontation with the loss.
At this stage, your friend may feel intense feelings of loss and pain. Symptoms may vary widely from depression, lack of appetite, withdrawing socially, anger, and to guilt. This is the time your friend needs your support the most.
- Acceptance of loss.
We come to a point that we accept the loss of a loved one, although we never stop missing them, we eventually find ways to move forward with our lives. At this stage, your friend has managed to deal with the loss in her daily life.
Regardless of the stage of grieving you believe your friend is in, it is also important to realize that people may put on a strong outward appearance which may not reflect their true feelings.
The following are some terms you should not say
- “They are in a better place now.” - Everyone has different beliefs about the afterlife. This statement may be against your friend’s beliefs.
- “Everything happens for a reason.” - This often brings out anger as your friend may feel as if they had no control over the reasoning or “master plan”.
- Avoid phrases that begin with, “You should…” - Although you may be trying to give your friend advice, these types of phrases often sound pushy. Instead, rephrase your sentence with, “Have you thought about doing…”
Some Tips for Helping a Friend
- Make a point to regularly check in either by phone or in person. – It may be easier to communicate through social media or texting, but it is not nearly the same as hearing a familiar voice.
- Offer to help with something specific. – Instead of saying, “Call me if your ever need anything.”, it would be more helpful to reach out and say for instance, “I made a lasagna for you. When could I drop it off?”
- Listen without feeling the need to offer suggestions. – Many times, a grieving person just wants to talk about how they are feeling or reminisce about their loved one. The ability to simply listen is golden.
- Be sensitive to special occasions. – Feelings of grief typically intensify during special occasions such as, Christmas, birthdays, and anniversaries. Offer to spend the day with your friend or invite them out to dinner but also understand that they may just want to be alone.
- Know when to get help for your friend. – If your friend has shown sudden change in behaviour or has displayed signs of depression for a long period of time (over a year), gently suggest they speak with a therapist or join a support group. Offer to help your friend reach out and find resources.
If you have any questions about helping a person through grief, or you have questions for yourself, please do not hesitate to contact us at the funeral home anytime.