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How to Help a Grieving Friend

Published: December 30, 2023

It can be difficult to know how to help a friend or relative who is grieving. While you can't take away the pain of grief, know that your support is essential in letting your friend know that they are not alone. Recognize that grief is a gradual process and continue to offer both moral and physical support while keeping hope alive for a brighter future. According to Harvard Health Publishing, even small gestures, sending a card or flowers, delivering a meal, helping out with laundry or shopping, or making a regular date to listen and offer support can be a huge source of comfort to a person who is grieving.

It's important to continue to check in with your friend, even if you don't know what to say. Use your best judgement on how often to check in. It could be daily or every few weeks, depending on where they are in the grief process and how close a relationship you have with the bereaved. Your friend needs to know that they are not alone in their grief.

When you contact your friend, avoid asking how they are doing and instead ask how they are feeling. Grief is a journey of ups and downs with varied emotions. Your friend may be overwhelmed by sadness one day and laughing at a fond memory of their loved one the next. Just being present can make a big difference in someone's journey of grief. But avoid giving advice. While well-meant, making suggestions about what the person should or shouldn't do or feel can make the bereaved feel worse.

Remember, you don't have to do it alone. Reach out to church groups, mutual friends, or other groups to help support your friend. You can use online tools such as CaringBridge to coordinate meals, rides for shopping trips, prayer circles, or whatever is needed to help relieve your friend's grief.

There are a variety of ways to offer your support from doing laundry to shopping to celebrating holidays together. Here are some suggestions for supporting a friend in their grief:

* Help out: A bereaved friend may be glad to have help with practical tasks while they are otherwise preoccupied with grief. Offer assistance with specific tasks, such as checking their mail, paying bills, taking them shopping, doing errands, helping with household tasks, or assisting with pet care.

* Make Plans: Invite them to do something that they enjoy. You could take them out for a meal, plan a day at a spa, go to a movie, play a game, or take a walk. During the holidays, extend an invitation to join you in the festivities. If they are reluctant to participate, don't push it. You can leave your invitation open-ended, so they don't feel pressured to go out before they are ready. And leave room for them to change their mind, one way or the other.

* Send a treat: Even if physical distance prevents you from showing up, you can always send a treat or a meal. Your friend may not have the energy or desire to cook anything for themselves. Sending a gift card to a favorite local restaurant allows your friend to order in for a meal. Goldbelly sends gourmet treats and meals nationwide.

* Talk with them: Pick up the phone or even video call. Simply being present and offering your listening ear is a wonderful way to support those in grief. Don't worry about filling the silence. Just remain present and allow space for your friend. No matter how unsure you feel about what to say, remember that the bereaved person will appreciate your sincere efforts to be supportive. Don't be afraid to bring up the departed. It's helpful for the bereaved to hear others talk about their loved one. It reminds them that others were impacted by the departed's life, too.

When someone you care about is experiencing grief, your expressions of sympathy and support are crucial to letting them know that they are not alone. Check in on your friend and offer specific ways you can support them, such as offering to help with tasks, making plans to do something they enjoy, and lending a supportive ear. Everyone experiences grief in their own way, so be patient and understanding. Your friend will appreciate your love and support during such a difficult transition.

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