I’m a contributing writer for Psych2Go and today, we share with you 5 ways to show support for your friend in need. We can’t avoid death. In our lives, we’re forced to witness the bereavement of someone who has lost a loved one. It’s unavoidable, and painful to watch. I’ve been on both sides: as the bereaved and as the person placed in the support system role. These experiences have helped highlight what works. Here are 5 ways to show support for your friend in need.
1. Not knowing what to say is ok.
It’s normal to feel uncomfortable and helpless and unsure of what to say. The most sincere thing I heard after my husband’s death was, “I don’t know what to say. There are no words.” That was the ultimate truth. There are no magic words that will stop the pain or fill the gaping hole in their heart. You don’t have to say something amazing. For me, tight hugs and shared tears meant more than words.
2. Be sincere.
We can all agree that none of us wants to be in the receiving line at a funeral or memorial service. As tempting as it is to say “let me know if you need anything”, that is only helpful if you are offering in earnest. In all the confusion after a death, the grieving may not know what they need. Most likely, they need all the help they can get. Offer anything you are comfortable doing for them. Walk their dog, bring them a meal, or just sit with them. My most appreciated and sincere support came from a friend who lived 7,000 miles away. Nikki sat on a video call with me for hours. Most of that time she listened to me blow my nose and cry as I sorted through Doug’s childhood photos for the memorial service. From half a planet away, she was there for me. Time difference and all.
3. Follow up.
Your phone call could be the exact thing that lures them out of bed. I can’t count how many times this was true. I wanted to curl into a ball and stay in bed, unwilling to face reality. A phone call, or a voice message, showed me others cared even when I didn’t want to. Make the phone call and coax them back into life or into a grief counseling group. Check in on them. It makes a difference.
A mourning soul can seem fine for weeks, even months before something triggers them. The smell of cologne, a certain song, a specific menu item could conjure a memory which rouses tears. Even if it’s been a few years, everyone processes grief in a different way and at their own pace. Try to include your mourning friend in your plans. Don’t get discouraged if they say no for a while. Eventually, they will return to the land of the living and your patience will be treasured. Hard as this was for me to go back into the world, it helped to be out and develop a new sense of normal. A supportive friend will always include you in their plans.
5. Recognize your own grief.
Providing support for someone else can be draining. Acknowledge that you mourn too for losing a friend, co-worker, teacher, or neighbor. Your grief is just as important. Just like the pre-flight safety announcements warn us to secure our own air mask before assisting others, the same rule applies here. Make sure to take care of your own needs first.
Let us know if these tips help and if you have questions for us!