Thoughtful Ways to Help a Friend Deal With Grief

Alice Wisler
Don't judge your friend.

Helping a friend deal with grief might be one of the most difficult things you will have to do. When a close friend loses a loved one, the sorrow is great. The ways in which you can be a loving and supportive friend at this time are important to know.

When a Loved One Dies

The relationship between your friend and the person who died will determine how intense your friend's grief will be. Note that the word relationship goes beyond the words relative and kinfolk. Some people are closer to their own aunts or cousins than others. While one person might take the death of a cousin with deep remorse, another might not be as affected. He might be more devastated at the death of a childhood friend or college buddy. Generally, the greater losses are those of parents and siblings. The loss of a child is the worst loss for a parent. The death of a spouse is also a deep loss, and for the couple who was happily married for 30 or more, this can be one of the hardest losses to face. Some may not be as sorrowful over the death of his or her grandparent, while others have had a close relationship with an elderly grandparent, or were raised by him or her, and therefore, the void is now massive.

What Grievers Need

Regardless of which loved one your friend lost, he or she will need the following as she grieves:

  • Space
  • Time
  • Freedom to talk or not to talk
  • Patience

Gifts to Give a Newly Bereaved Friend

When your friend is in agony after the death of her loved one, some of the best gifts you can offer her are your listening ears and support. Other things you can give her as she is thrust onto this journey of grief include:

  • Soft tissues
  • A sturdy journal
  • Books on grief
  • Soothing music CDs
  • A memento for her garden or house (Depending on who died and what they liked you can tailor this gift to be something to remind your friend of his or her loved one.)
  • Attending a bereavement workshop, seminar or conference with him or her
  • Helping your friend find a grief group pertaining to the loss
  • Making a donation to the memorial fund or charity in honor of your friend's loved one

Emotional Roller Coaster

When a loved one dies, those left behind will experience a large range of emotions. There may be bouts of tears, listlessness, and even times of anger or frustration. Sometimes all of these emotions occur in the course of only an hour. Often the newly-bereaved are misunderstood and this creates stress. Co-workers may expect them to be back to their old selves within a matter of weeks. However, it is typical for grievers to experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Guilt
  • Loneliness
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of interest in everyday things
  • The need to tell the story of the loved one's last days over and over
  • Meaninglessness to life

No Judging

Everyone grieves differently. Allow your friend to mourn the death of a loved one in his or her own way. Do not tell her what to do or not to do. Living without a loved one that was always there is a great adjustment for anyone. Helping a friend deal with grief and learn new ways to cope without his or her loved one is a wonderful gift you can give.

Seeking Professional Help

However, if you find that after many months your friend refuses to return to work or care for those around him or her, or even refuses to take care of himself or herself, you may want to ask a professional for advice on how to help your friend. Realize that there are many healthy ways to grieve. These may not look normal to an outsider who has never experienced the trauma of grief, but in the bereavement community, they are normal forms of behavior. Yet, there are limitations. If you feel your friend is damaging his or her health, you may need to consult with a counselor or doctor so that they can be aware of the situation and assist you in helping a friend deal with grief.

Thoughtful Ways to Help a Friend Deal With Grief