How to support a grieving friend

Take the time to listen, and provide quiet support.

How can you support a grieving friend? Dianne Waddington, the head of social work at Helderberg Hospice, shares some heartfelt advice on what we can do in times of a friend or family member’s loss.

1. Listen

Be someone that allows them to express their grief safely and without judgement.

Allow them to talk about their thoughts and feelings, only if they want to. Be comfortable with them talking about their loved one, and remembering good and bad times. Never assume or say you know exactly what they are thinking or feeling, even if you’ve experienced a similar loss.

2. Grief belongs to the grieving person

Recognise that you cannot take the pain of grief away, you cannot grieve on behalf of the bereaved person.

You can love, care for and support the person through their grief processes. Hard as it may be, this is not about you.

The bereaved will appreciate someone who doesn’t try to talk the pain away or telling them to ‘be strong’.

3. Meals

Put together a list of who can supply healthy, nutritious meals and when. Request that meals just be dropped and do not become visits, as this can be very overwhelming for the grieving person.

We want to help, but we must also respect their personal space.

4. Offer tangible support

We tend to say “let me know if you need anything”. The reality is that the grieving person will not phone when they need something.

Offer specific support, like paying bills, doing shopping, going for a walk together, fetching and dropping the bereaved person for medical appointments or social activities they wish to attend.

5. Be consistent

Soon after the passing of a loved one, it is often a very busy time for the bereaved having to sort out practical and financial matters. There are often lots of phone calls and visitors during this time.

When all this quietens down, usually after some kind of funeral or memorial, loneliness often starts to set in, and this is when the person will need ongoing support.

6. Remember special occasions

Make a special effort to support the grieving person at times when they would have celebrated special occasions with the loved one they have lost, for example their own birthday, the birthday of the person who has passed on, anniversaries, or religious celebrations.

All these “firsts” without their loved one are usually the hardest for the grieving person.

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