No one wants to talk about the awfulness when a dear friend or family member loses a child, or a spouse, or someone they were very, very close to. Today, I will be sharing some thoughts and helpful tips how to help a friend in crisis – at whatever stage of grieve they are experiencing. Whether a week ago – or several years ago – it takes time to work through the stages of grieving, and the timing may be different from person to person.
I have learned that grief is a “process”, and everyone deals with their loss differently. Honestly, I never knew this reality until I experienced it myself with losing my parents 7 months apart. And, we can’t rush the process for anyone, and we certainly can’t go through it for them. What we can do is be by their side – if that’s what they wish – or we can just wait and let them know we are ready to help them should they need us for anything …even if it is just to talk!
Some of the things I have learned when a close friend or family member has experienced such loss:
- You must be ready to help your friend on her timetable – not yours! All of this takes time…. she may not be ready to talk to you on the phone or see you, but when and if she is ready, please try to be there for her!
- Be practical in her time of need – offer to run errands for her, pick up her kids from school, run to the grocery store, drive her, and run errands with her. She may not want to drive alone and may not be up to handling her responsibilities yet by herself.
- Be willing to listen – no matter how much or little she talks. Be sincere and sit in silence unless she wishes for you to talk. This is a time to let her get it out, so please try not to offer advice and just listen.
- Please don’t say things like “I know how you feel”, or “Are you ready to get on with your life”? (We really can’t know how she feels, and we don’t want to push her into anything she is not ready for.) For instance, I told my dear friend, Lori, after her loss of her oldest daughter: “I will never tell you I know how you feel because I don’t. You won’t hear those words from me.”
- Call her just to “check in” with her, text her with a short message, or send her a thoughtful notecard. (I have another sweet friend who tragically lost her son…. I would send her little text messages letting her know I was thinking of her. She expressed to me, “Clare, you don’t know what your messages mean to me. I so appreciate them!”
- Just be there for your friend and listen, listen, listen! Just listen with open arms and open ears, or just sit in silence together if she is not ready to talk at all.
- Offer to go out with her. Maybe a nice lunch out, an uplifting movie, or taking a nice long walk would be just the thing to make her day.
- When months have gone by – and most of the “visitors” have come and gone – be there for her. This is when she will need you the most.
- Gently ask if she has considered trying out a support group and offer to go with her if she would rather not go alone.
Hospice provides grief services:
- And Grief Share is a Christian support group: http://www.griefshare.org/
While grieving takes time, here are some signs that you might want to encourage your friend to see professional help:
- Neglecting personal hygiene;
- Engaging in excessive alcohol or drug use;
- Talking about dying, suicide, or ending the pain;
- Having difficulty functioning or completely withdrawing from daily life.
Should she need help finding a therapist, the American Psychological Association can help her find a therapist:
- Locally and nationally, “Psychology Today” can also help: https://www.psychologytoday.com/
I hope these tips will help you to be a good friend to someone special during their time of grief and need. Be there for her – she needs you now more than ever!