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How do you best serve your grieving friend?

March 26, 2008

cross at Knock, IrelandToo often when people are sick or in pain (physical or psychological) their friends fade away from their lives. It is not that people are mean spirited, most just don’t know what to say or do .. so they do nothing. In my tenure as a nurse I have seen this often.

People need their friends. There is no cliche that they want to hear. Please don’t worry about saying something that will “snap them out of depression”. Silence can be eloquent. A silent visit with only a hug as a conversation can lift their spirits more than you know.

Don’t be afraid of tears. Sometimes situations warrant tears. It can be cleansing and a validation that what they are going through is real. When I was a student nurse a senior nurse told me this “it is ok to cry with your patients. The day that you don’t feel like crying is the day that you need to get out of nursing. Just keep yourself in check so that they are not put in the role of comforting you. ” This same advice rings true for friends and family.

It is ok to talk about normal everyday life. They might not want to talk about the diagnosis, loss of a child etc. At the same time be open to the conversation. Bear in mind it is ok to say.. I don’t know what to say .. do.. but know I love you. It is ok to invite them out for normal activities. Don’t expect them to have to say yes, but an invitation to normalcy is nice.

Remember that they have the right to grieve in their own time. Please don’t set any timetable to their grieving process. Let them know that you acknowledge their pain and that you are praying for them and love them. Pray with them if possible. God is the ultimate healer. But it is not a question of their faith if the grief is not lifted away instantly. We live in an imperfect world where true loss is real.

Know that they may be exhausted. Offering to take on household tasks are very welcome. From a simple “do you want me to pick up milk for you” to “can I fix you guys a meal”? can be helpful and healing.

Be patient. Whether there are hormonal fluxes from a loss of a wanted child , shear exhaustion, or both, they may be stand offish and snappy. Keep in mind that is not “who they are”. They are just dealing with a situation which many of us may find unbearable. Allow them to be genuine with you. Sometimes knowing that there are people out there that you can show your “ugly emotions” to and they still stand by and love you is the most healing thing in the world.

If you are like me, you are a researcher. Look up the appropriate support groups in their area and give them the contact information. Often people find it therapeutic to be able to share with others “who have been there”. They can get practical advice and good referrals to local counselors if needed.

Finally just be there. Don’t force yourself on them. Let them just be aware that you are there.

my dear friend Donna writes about this in such an open way regarding her own loss. I encourage you to read her advice from the perspective of the one who has gone through the valley.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 27, 2008 7:21 am

    Karen
    This is so well said. It really is right on the money per say. Thanks for sharing this. People generally do not get “it” unless they have walked it. I am sure God will use this post to help serve many who are grieving. Just one note…From my own experience I can say I will always be grieving in a way no matter how long it has been since Scott died. That is OK and it does not mean if I have a bad day/week I am slipping “back” to the way it was in the beginning…
    You are a precious gift to the body and I am thankful to God it is in the Chesapeake body you live…
    Love you!!!!

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