How do you help a Friend who is Grieving?
The loss of a relative is something that the majority of us will all have to deal with at some point in our lives. Whether a family member, close friend, pet or even a celebrity that have felt particularly close to. Grief can even be experienced when relationships end or even when you transition from work to retirement. As is the case in grief as in life, we all differ in how we deal with grief.
Grief is such a personal thing for somebody to go through and how best to help and support people experiencing it can be both daunting and difficult to do. The internet is full of information on the different steps of grief a person can experience and it is these changing stages that make being supportive difficult. Just as individuals grieve differently, those offering support also have different personality traits that may inflame the emotions someone is feeling.
The majority of us are not trained in any form of counselling and blindly limp our way through doing what we believe is the best thing for those affected. This can be a big red flag. Unless you really know the person and what emotional triggers they may have, it can be very easy to exacerbate the grief. Counselors are skilled at being able to stay at arms length and deal with the emotions and feelings and the affects they have. Being a friend, we make biased assumptions of what we think the other person may wan to hear. This may work, but, it may not.
You can very easy get in a situation of offering help and support and it being ignored or unwanted. Does this mean the person doesn’t value your friendship, of course not. They just may need time to quietly reflect on what they are going though. If you keep pushing though, the stress the friend may be going through can erupt and result in comments or actions from them that you now feel are aimed at you and not driven by grief.
How do you pick up the cues that you have gone too far in offering support? This is difficult. If someone is not coping and you offer support and they say they are fine, but you know they are not, it can be hard to stop. Even though stopping may be the support they want. You know it is counter intuitive but you have to respect the persons request. Stepping over an unseen boundary and landing in a mine field that can destroy your friendship is a real possibility. It has hard for someone dealing with loss to understand that those offering help can also be grieving at the loss of their friend for a period of time. And the length of time can vary for every individual.
If you are dealing with someone you know going through this, be prepared to completely rethink how your friendship should look while they grieve. Tread lightly and look for positive responses to assistance and build on those. Don’t push someone to far to fast. The associate stress can often come out in comments and actions that are uncommon to your previous interactions and need to be seen as not the normal.
Enduring friendships in life can be rare and we want to hold on to those that we share a close bond to. Grief is more than likely to arise at some point and being there for someone may differ from what you think it entails. The best words I can offer are, go lightly and look past the grief for the day you get that friend back once they have dealt with grief in their own way.