Many people truly want to offer their support or condolences to a close friend who is experiencing a severe loss, but the fear of saying the wrong thing often stops people from saying anything at all.
Yes, it’s true that words tend to fail us during times of hardship, leaving us searching and searching for the right thing to say. While doing or saying nothing at all is always an option, it’s not usually the best choice that can be made.
It’s important to realize that there is no perfect way to respond to someone who is experiencing loss. There is no one specific way to go about showing your support for the people that you care about. Every person’s process of grieving has its own unique patterns and requirements, and that can really test a friendship. It is pertinent for your own mental and emotional health to realize that it is not your sole responsibility to make it all better or to mend the issue. Your loved one will not actually expect you to make all of the pain go away. That being said, there are some ways to help facilitate another person’s grieving in a healthy, supportive way that doesn’t negate their emotions.
It can be tempting to try to alleviate your friend’s pain by discussing the good old times or the pleasant times that are still yet to come. But even though these sorts of comments are meant to be comforting, they can come off as dismissive of the pain the person is in presently. Recognize that here, in this moment, your friend is hurting because it is painful to deal with the loss of a loved one. Remind them that you love them and that you are here.
Don’t Be A Hero
You cannot fix this one. You cannot undo what has been done. It is not your job nor your place to repair, to resolve or to resurrect. Be the friend who focuses on being supportive and reliable rather than trying to take all of the pain out of the situation.
Let The Grief Happen
Grief is a very personal experience and every single person will inevitably experience it a little differently. You may feel compelled to offer your own suggestions or advice on grieving, but restrain from offering help where it is unwanted or unnecessary. Yes, you may have chosen to do things differently if it had happened to you. But this particular experience of grief doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to your friend. There is no wrong or right way to experience grief so save your critiques and just let it happen.
Make A Concrete Offer
Most people are not willing to “burden” others with their own pain, so it is unlikely that your friend will directly ask for your help, support, prayers, etc. Saying “Call me if you need anything” still requires your grieving friend to be the one to reach out to you and make arrangements, which might be more than they can handle at this difficult time. Instead, make a concrete offer to your friend and follow through. The best way to show that you care is to be reliable and do what you say you are going to do.
And above all else, show your friend some love. Listen. Say something. Do something. Be aware of their feelings. Be aware of their needs. Cry with them. Hug them. Be the friend that they need the most right now.