People are stunned when someone they care about loses a loved one and they rarely know what to do or say for them. Here are some ideas of what to do and say to comfort your friends who are suffering from grief.
When someone dies friends and family all come together to comfort each other. It’s hard to know what to do or say but we instinctively know that the act of coming together is important. But what do you really say to someone you know who has lost a loved one? Some people are so unsure of what to say they avoid the funeral and their friend all together, leaving the person who is suffering from grief bewildered by the fact that their friend seems to have abandoned them.
What people need to know is that the simple act of being there is tremendous comfort to the grieving person. You don’t need to say anything magical, sometimes you don’t even need to talk at all. Listening to someone talk about how much they miss their loved one or listening to a story about the deceased is often just what is needed. Allowing that person get out what they have been keeping inside is a wonderful gift.
At first people are good about visiting you when you lose someone in your family. They bring their casserole over to the house and send flowers. They attend the funeral and for days, even weeks they come by to visit and just see how you are doing. However, the visits taper off and the left behind often find themselves very alone. About a year after the death is when the widow or widower feels the full effect of their loss and they have to face a new life without them. That’s also the time that many visitors stop coming by. It’s difficult to start over but it can be even more difficult when friends stop visiting.
It’s at about this time that people, although they still miss their friends, get back into their normal routines and forget to visit the widow or widower. Losing someone in your immediate family isn’t the same as losing an aunt, a grandma or a friend. The initial shock and loss may by the same, but you can go back to your normal routine. The widow or widower can’t. You may miss them at the holidays or at family reunions, but your daily routine won’t change. For the widow or widower it is very different. Someone that was with them every single day is now gone and they have to find a new life on their own. It can be very quiet and lonely. If friends remember to keep in contact with their friends who have lost someone it can ease the pain of loneliness somewhat.
There are other things you can do besides just visiting. For a child who has lost a parent you can take them out to a movie to give the surviving parent some time to himself or herself. You could also take a child shopping for a holiday present or birthday present for their remaining parent. That could be a big relief for the child since they often have no way to go shopping by themselves and they may have little money to spend. It’s hard for a child to have no way to buy their mother a birthday present or make sure their father has presents under the Christmas tree. This is when a mentor could make a huge difference in a child’s’ life.
Encouraging a widow or widower to start dating may not be in their best interest. Grieving is a long process and is different for everyone. Just because you think it is time they get out into the dating world again doesn’t mean that it is the right time for them. Instead ask them over to your house for dinner, or shopping at the mall or a movie. Socializing is great, don’t let your friend lock themselves up in their house but don’t push them into dating. Let them decide when it is time to look again for love.
The most important thing to remember is to be there for your friend or loved one. Asking what they need may or may not help since they could still be in shock, but often they will come up with something you can do to help out. Be a loving, gentle, patient friend and that itself will go a long way.