When a friend loses a loved one, it can be difficult to know how to respond. It’s common to feel helpless like you’re just getting in the way, not knowing what to say. Worrying about saying or doing the wrong thing, or putting your foot in it, can make it tempting to keep your distance while they’re dealing with the acute initial bereavement. But your friend needs you, even if it isn’t immediately obvious. Just having you nearby could be enough, but chances are, they might need a bit more from you.
Let them talk
They’re going to want to reminisce, let out frustration and pain, and even make plans and decisions for the funeral and execution of the will with you. Isolation is not constructive to grief, and a sympathetic ear is the most valuable thing. It can be tempting to fill the silence with chatter, but the silence is the time they spend processing their thoughts, so let silence happen, and listen when they need to speak. It can feel quite uncomfortable to listen to someone talking through their grief, but persevere through the awkwardness – your friend will thank you for it.
Show them you’re thinking of them
You can’t always be with them or on the phone to them, so it’s good to show them you’re thinking of them when they’re least expecting it. A card and flowers are perfect – it’s a small gesture, but it will make them feel loved and supported. If you’re living remotely and doing most of your supporting via the internet or cell phone, choose an international florist such as Floraqueen. The reviews of Floraqueen demonstrate the sheer number of countries they deliver to, so you’re never too far away from your friend.
Listening is essential, but practical help is unparalleled. Ask them what they need, and be honest if you’re unsure how to help. Just cooking them a meal, cleaning their home, or doing their shopping could make their day that must easier, and it’ll help to reinforce the feelings of support.
Grief takes time – you might think that they’re getting over it and getting back on with life, only to find that they’re still crying themselves to sleep six months later. It can be really hard for them to ask for help when they feel like a burden, so make sure they know you’re always there and always available to them, even a few months down the line. They say time is the greatest healer, but who knows just how much time is needed?
Finally, practical suggestions for things to do can really help to get them back on their feet. Even if you just suggest heading out for a coffee or to catch a movie it’s a way to get them out of the house and back to some semblance of normality. Don’t push it if they say no, just leave it and come up with a new, practical suggestion later on.