When someone you love goes through something horrible, you want to help them. Often times though, helping them isn’t easy. You might not know the right words to say or the right way to react, but here are important do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.
Do Understand That Just Being There Helps
You can’t help, at least not in the way that you want to. You can’t take their problems away or give them a magic fix, but you can be there. Simply letting them know that you are there and you’re a shoulder for them to cry on or complain to will help them know that you’re there will help them more than you know.
Don’t Use Clichés
“They’re in a better place,” “this is all part of God’s plan,” and “this will strengthen you” are some of the worst things you can say to someone who is grieving. Not only has your friend probably heard these phrases over and over again and probably finds them annoying, but they might even make them feel worse.
Do Admit That You Have No Idea What to Say
There’s nothing right to say in this situation, but admitting that you have no idea what to say might be the closest you can get. The honesty of it will mean a lot to them, and make sure to follow it up with a hug (if they’re okay with it) and by telling them that you’re there for them (and mean it.)
Don’t Pressure Them to Talk About It
Talking can be triggering. Don’t ask them about their loved one, whether it be about their life or their death. Don’t try to get them to talk to you about what they’re going through, because chances are it hasn’t hit them yet and they can’t put it into words. Pressuring them to talk won’t help them, and it might even hurt them.
Do Listen If They Want to Talk
They might not want to talk about what they’re going through. If they do, listen. Let them tell you endless stories about their loved one. If you knew them, offer up your own memories. If you don’t, ask about them. Help them to remember their life rather than their death.
Don’t Compare Their Grief to Yours or Someone Else’s
Two people going through the exact same situation will react differently; that’s a fact. One may cry, and one might not. One might throw themselves into their work, and another might stop working altogether while they try to wrap their head around their loss. Everyone grieves differently, and there is no right or wrong way.
Do Look Out for Them
After an extreme loss, some people react in extreme ways. Watch out for self-destructive or out of character behavior that might indicate that they’re struggling more than they’re letting on. If you think that they’re acting in way that could hurt them or someone else, talk to them or a trusted friend to decide the best way to confront them.
Don’t Expect Them to Be Okay
Moving on from a loss is hard. It’s going to take a while for them to be able to continue with their “normal life.” It could be days or year, or they might not ever return to what you think is normal, and that’s okay. Grief alters people forever, and returning to their “normal self” can be hard.
Do Encourage Them to Seek Help, Even in Small Ways
This can be something as big as seeking professional help to something as little as reading Too Damn Young. Too Damn Young is a wonderful resources for young people who are grieving, with articles on a wide range of topics, from religion to books and everything in between. Another amazing resource for someone who is grieving is Modern Loss, which caters to people of every age and covers ever aspect of grief.
Grief is complicated, whether if affects you or someone that you care about. Helping through is difficult, but necessary. Whether your friend admits it or not, they’re thankful for you.
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