How to console a grieving friend
In a true friendship, you are there for your friend through good times and bad, just like the promise made in marriage. There is no more difficult time in life than the grief of losing a loved one. During this time of bereavement, your friend will need you more than ever. Perhaps you don't quite know what to say to ease your friend's grief, but it often takes only a few sincere, heartfelt words of sympathy to express your feelings. There are also very helpful and practical ways to "be there" for your friend during this time of bereavement. Your friend is struggling to accept that a loved one has died; the bereaved may also include your friend's spouse, children, or other family members.
It's important to be a good listener
When talking to your friend about his or her grief, it is more important to listen than to keep speaking your own words of sympathy. A simple, "I'm sorry for your loss. What can I do for you?" will suffice. This shows your friend that you are there to listen and to genuinely help during this time of grieving. If you were close to the deceased, then consider sending sympathy flowers to the funeral home. If not, send flowers directly to your friend along with a sympathy card (see How to write a sympathy card for help). It is often much easier to express words of sympathy by allowing a simple card to do it for you. Plus, a lovely card is something that your bereaved friend can keep as a life-long memory of your steadfast friendship during this time of grieving.
Practical things you can do to help
This will be a very difficult time for the bereaved. It is often hard for those experiencing grief to complete the everyday tasks of living. This is the time to offer your services. While your friend is grieving, he or she is likely not eating properly and not completing household tasks such as mowing the lawn, getting the mail, or doing the laundry.
Don't wait to be asked for help, because this request will never happen; your friend would feel that he or she is imposing on your time. Below are ideas for practical help to offer your grieving friend:
- Go to your friend's home with a home cooked meal (if they don't need it that day, tell them they can always put it in the freezer for later) and some easy to eat snacks such as muffins. It is difficult to keep up strength during bereavement.
- While you are there, throw in a load of laundry.
- Spend an hour tidying or cleaning the house for your friend.
- Check the refrigerator for necessities; go shopping if needed.
- Ask if there are any errands you can run.
- Offer to walk the dog if they have one.
- Mow the lawn if necessary.
Volunteer to answer the telephone and the door
During this time of grief, there will be many people who are calling to express their sympathy. It can be very difficult for someone to answer these calls and explain how their loved one died and the details of the memorial service. It is wonderful to have a friend to field these calls. You can explain how the person died, where and when the service is, what they can do to help, and pass on their words of sympathy.
There will also be people calling at the door with flowers and food. Answering the telephone and door will take a lot of stress off the bereaved. If the loved one has only recently died, it may be necessary to notify friends and family of the death. This would also be good to do for your grieving friend, if they agree. Ask for an address book and call all loved ones and close friends to notify them of the death.
The most important thing is to just be there...
There are many ways to help the bereaved during the grieving process. As a friend, it is important to be there during this difficult time. Remember that when someone talks to you about grief, the best thing you can do is listen and comfort them. It isn't a problem that can be solved, and it's not up to you to help them move on. They'll do that on their own. That's part of what makes comforting someone in grief so hard.
While you may feel helpless in the situation, remember that all you need to do is be there. Listen to your friend. Offer your support and assistance. Just be there. Bereavement is a time when the world feels like it is crumbling all around us. It helps to know you are loved and not alone.
A further source of help...
If you feel that your friend would benefit from talking about his or her bereavement with others who have suffered a similar loss, they may find some comfort on our Bereavement Forum.
Further sources of information
You may find our other articles in the Coping with the grief of others section helpful too.
Visit our Amazon store to find books to help you through bereavement.