Supporting a grieving friend ? Here are 5 tips that might help
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Anna Bassett BA (hons) MBACP
9th October, 20170 Comments
Grieving the loss of someone you love is one of life's biggest challenges and the acute pain of the loss feels overwhelming. I think this quotes sums it up well:
“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” - Vicki Harrison.
My friends and I refer to them as grief waves, sometimes they are regular, timed, rhythmic yet constant, other times they are tsunamis that when they hit, they leave a trail of utter emotional destruction in their path. Navigating the grieving process is arduous and distressing; and so is supporting someone through it. Talking about grief is difficult and something we tend to shy away from or avoid altogether if we can help it. If you have never experienced grief, you may be at a loss to know what to say or do, I hope these tips help:
1) Keep up contact.
Pick up the phone and call or text, even if your friend doesn’t feel like talking, just knowing that you are being thought of helps. You don’t need to say the right thing. Acknowledging the loss is important, but otherwise, just do your best to be there when you can.
2) Just listen.
It’s natural to worry about saying the right thing or knowing what to say in circumstances like this. It may not feel like much, but your physical presence alone is enough. Remember that you can’t fix this; all you can do is be there and listen.
3) Ease up on giving advice.
It’s very tempting to give advice. Particularly if we have been in similar situations, and we may even think we know what’s best for that person. Even if that’s true, advice might fall flat. Generally, people want our understanding, and if they do want advice, they’ll most likely ask for it. In terms of platitudes, be careful, things like “he had a good innings” or “everything happens for a reason” might feel misplaced.
4) Allow them space to talk.
When people are in pain and grieving, we tend to try to avoid talking about the situation for fear that we might make things worse. Generally, if people are given an opportunity to talk about their grief, they will usually feel a bit better for it.
5) Stay with the pain.
This can be difficult, we are often hardwired to deflect difficult emotions with humour or possibly avoid it altogether. I would urge you to try and stick with it, you don’t necessarily have to say anything, Just try to stay with what is difficult.
Grief and loss are life changing
I know I’m not the same person I used to be. Your friend may seem fine one day and angry or depressed the next. Being on an emotional roller coaster is all part of grief’s ups and downs. It does not seem to follow logic or a pattern. Stages of grief are written about and relatable, but grief is not a linear process - it’s up and down, rough and frequently overwhelming. I found that baby steps, taking each days as it comes, surviving and learning to swim, like the quote above states: Seem to be a good summary of navigating the grieving process. Being there to support your friend as much as possible is the best that you can do.
Related articles from our experts
- Grief - our own personal experience
Step1Counselling. Isabel Fulcher Registered MBACP18th June, 2018
- Coping with bereavement
Cate Campbell MA, MBACP (Accred), MCOSRT (Accred), MAFT3rd June, 2018
- The grieving practitioner
Dr. Sidrah Muntaha, Chartered Clinical Psychologist, DClinPych, CPsychol, AFBPsS19th May, 2018
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