Whether you or someone close to you has lost a loved one, you have probably experienced some of the many stages of grief. While it is necessary to go through the grieving process in order for healing to happen, it is not an easy or clean process.
If you are concerned about knowing what to do or say, then we hope that today’s post will provide the insight and information that you need. At St. John Baptist Church in Columbia, we understand just how valuable it is to support one another during some of life’s hardest times. Call or visit to learn more about our grief-support group, and let us help you through this process.
1. Allow Your Friend to Grieve in Their Own Way
You already know that everyone is unique in their own way, but it might not have occurred to you that those same unique characteristics mean that the grieving process will probably not look the same from one person to the next. Resist the temptation to tell your friend that they should or shouldn’t do something or feel a certain way. Allow them to experience grief in the way that feels most natural for them. You might do things differently, but hopefully you will not have to find out just how you’ll deal with grief.
2. Be Present and Honest
One of the easiest things to do in this type of situation is to try and escape to topics that are easier for you to talk about with your friend. For example, it might be easy to remind them of some of the good things from the past, or jump ahead to a future that is “sure” to be better.
It’s important to keep in mind that no matter how good their memories of the past are, or what they have to look forward to in the future, those things do not take away from the pain of the present. Additionally, you can’t promise that the future will be full of better things. No matter how hard it may be for you, your friend needs you to be with them in the moment and share their grief.
Try not to offer platitudes about how the person’s loved one is in a better place. Simply reminding them that you love them, you hurt with them, and you are here for them can be more meaningful than you might ever know.
3. Don’t Try to Fix Things
The loss of a friend or family member causes such grief that it is only natural to want to find a way to fix things so that your friend does not have to feel such depths of pain. Sadly, this is not something that you can fix or in any way make better. There is nothing you can do to make the pain lessen or go away — only time can help with that piece. Instead, do your best to remember what we addressed in point number two — be present and honest. There is something unbelievably supportive in the presence of a friend who will simply sit with you in your most raw and vulnerable moment without trying to fix the problem.
4. Don’t Tag Grieving Relatives in Online Photos
Posting photos of the deceased on social media might seem like a good way to share some of your best memories with them and your condolences with their family. This action, however, can backfire in a brutal way. If the relatives of the deceased are still in the process of grieving, seeing an unexpected photo of their loved one can feel like a punch to the gut.
It’s also important to remember that you don’t know when they’ll see the pictures, and if they’re at work, then you could inadvertently cause them to become emotional in a place where they’d rather not have that happen. Rather than avoiding posting photos at all, simply text them to let them know that you’re going to share a photo that they should look at in their own time. This way, they can have more control of the situation.
5. Don’t Try to Put a Positive Spin on Everything
Sometimes the best way to process grief is to talk with a friend about the things that are making you feel sad. If you have a friend who is going through the grieving process and they want to share some things with you, then be sure to listen well. The last thing they want you to do is to find some nugget of positivity and direct their attention to that instead of what they want to talk about. They likely want you to simply acknowledge how horrible this particular piece is that they’re dealing with.
While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with trying to find the positive aspect to a situation, you want to be careful to avoid making your friend feel as if you weren’t really listening to them. Perhaps they need you to understand how awful a particular situation is without trying to fix it, since you probably can’t.
This last piece of advice may sound obvious and simple, but it isn’t. Listening is perhaps one of the most important and valuable gifts that you can give your friend, and yet it is also one of the hardest things to do well. During a conversation, there is usually a fair amount of give and take. Listening to a friend who needs to talk means that there will be very little speaking on your part.
Your friend may not feel like talking for a while, but when they do, it’s important that you create the space for them to say everything they need to say. Resist the temptation to interject, comment, or ask questions. Remember, this isn’t a situation you can fix, so it’s important to avoid the temptation to say things in an attempt to offer a solution.
While loss is a part of life, there are ways that you can provide the right kind of support for your friends as they go through the process of grieving their loss. At St. John Baptist Church in Columbia, we want to provide the help that you and others need when you lose a loved one, which is why we have a grief support group. Contact our church for more information to find out how you can become a part of our group.