One of the most common concerns for those who have friends or relatives who are struggling with feelings of grief, is “What can I do to help?”
It can be very difficult to watch someone that you care for be affected by sadness, loneliness and the feelings of despair that grief often brings with it.
Without turning this into a list of do’s and don’ts here are a few very important things to keep in mind when you want to help someone who is grieving.
What someone who is hurting needs, maybe most of all is for you to care for them and about them.
In order for you to truly care about them you must try hard to put yourself in their shoes.
Imagine what it might be like to have your world turned upside down.
Imagine what it might be like to be shaken to the point of not knowing what is certain or not.
Imagine what it would be like to be filled with shock and despair.
It’s really important to remember that this is how grievers often feel.
Armando once told me that grief was so powerful for him after his partner Michael died that he really didn’t know where he was, who he was or even how he would manage his next step.
“Everything was uncertain. The pain was so numbing that I was completely lost and off balance. It was as though I was half- a- sleep and almost in a thick fog, unable to see or even grasp for certain where I was.”
Armando’s feelings of disorientation are not uncommon and really what he needed more than anything was for those who care about him to be patient and kind where his behavior was concerned.
Try very hard not to talk too much. Chances are those in the throws of grief won’t hear you anyway.
Try to be still and quiet and listen to what they have to say. Listen patiently remembering that they are in a place that may be very confusing and therefore some of what they tell you might not make sense in a traditional, everyday way.
Eman told me that when her husband was killed in a car accident she went to places that she and her husband used to go together, hoping to somehow find him there.
“When I told my friends that I had been out looking for Ali they thought I was crazy. I can’t tell you how much sense it made at the time.”
Besides being compassionate and understanding and remembering that the person you care for is living in the shock of something unthinkable and unreal, you will also need to be present and still.
In the midst of all of the confused and painful feelings that the death of someone that we love brings with it, what we may need most is a consistent, kind presence.
“Sometimes my friend Mary Lou would just come and sit near me. Often she would hardly say a word but knowing that she would stop by every day made a huge difference to me. I counted on her coming and I looked forward to her just being there.”
We so often feel the need to fix things. Unfortunately, not everything is fixable.
Simply being present for someone that you care about who is experiencing grief, may be the greatest thing that you can provide.
Try to be empathetic and compassionate.
Try not to speak too much.
Try not to have pat answers or solutions to your friend’s problems.
Try not to repeat things that you have heard about grief, especially if they have come from friends or the TV.
Don’t worry if you don’t know what to say.
Stay close and try to be a consistent presence.
Don’t wait until they ask for something, just show up with food or the offer to stay for a while.
Your kindness, support and desire to simply be with them in their time of hurt and confusion will be a help, and will likely aid in your friends recovery.