Four Practical Ways to Help Someone Grieve
Mostly, our relationships with the people we are close to are full of good times. They are usually about pleasant occasions and enjoying each other's company. However, sometimes there is a need for us to be serious with our friends, and one of those times is when our friends are experiencing strong emotions such as sadness and loss. How can we help a grieving friend at times like this?
1. Just listen
We can wonder “What can I do?” in situations like this, and when we're uncertain, we generally try to do too much. In these circumstances, as a general rule of thumb, the less you do the more you'll help. Just listen to your friend. Reflect on what they say, think what it would be like to be in similar circumstances. If you feel like you do understand what they're going through, don't tell them – rather, demonstrate your understanding through just listening.
2. Hold the advice
It's very tempting to give advice. We've often been in similar situations, and we may even think we know what's best for that person. Even if that's true, advice usually falls flat. Generally, people don't want our advice, they want our understanding. And if they do want advice, they'll ask for it.
3. Give them space to talk
Don't be concerned that you'll make a mistake and ‘get them talking about it'. If that happens, it's usually a good thing. When other people are in pain and sadness, too often we try to avoid talking about the situation for fear that will make things worse. Generally, if you give people an opportunity to talk about things when they're sad, they will take the opportunity and feel better for it.
4. Stay with the serious
It's said that laughter is the best medicine. However, at these times our friends don't need medicine – they need someone who is going to be human with them. When we try and help a grieving friend by attempting to cheer them up or make light of the situation, we just make it obvious that we don't feel what they feel. Too often we try to be funny because it's us – not them – that can't bear their sadness and pain. There will come a time when there can be jokes about it but be sure before you jump in.
The evidence on how to help a grieving friend is in
On her website, Dr. Sue Johnson (http://drsuejohnson.com/) has demonstrated through Functional MRI scans that that the care and comfort of another person – just through something as simple as hand holding – significantly helps people process stress and pain better.
To sum up; if you want to help someone in distress, be a caring, listening person. It will help.
I'd be interested in your thoughts – please let me know in the comments.