At some point in our life, most of us have to learn to cope with the loss of a loved one. Companions on the grief journey—especially for the first few years after a loss—make a huge difference. Sadly, most of us don’t know what to say to a friend who is grieving, or what we can do to help.
National Grief Awareness Day is today to shine a light on grief, and the ongoing need for support after losing a loved one. If you have a friend who is grieving, here are six things to keep in mind:
- Grief is not something you ‘get over’— it’s something you get through by learning to live ‘with’ the loss.
- There’s no time limit on grief!
- Grief is a normal, natural reaction to loss that can cause overwhelming and confusing emotions including disbelief, anguish, anger, sorrow, fear, guilt, relief, hopelessness, and helplessness.
- Grief impacts every aspect of your life: intellectual, physical, spiritual, social, and creative, as well as emotional. Widows are usually impacted financially as well.
- Most people who are grieving need support for far, far longer than their friends and family realize.
- Grief does not follow a linear timeframe. It comes in waves and is often triggered by a song, aroma, place or memory, even years after the loss.
Here are five things you can do to help a grieving friend.
- Realize you can’t fix this. There isn’t anything you can say or do to bring back the person who died. All you can do is accompany your friend on their grief journey.
- Don’t worry about finding ‘the right words.’ Simply saying “I’m so sorry for your loss” and giving a hug can bring great comfort.
- Create a safe space for your friend to share what’s in their heart. Listen. Don’t judge. Invite your friend to talk about their loss and how it makes them feel, and quietly hand them tissues if they start to cry.
- Talk about the person who died, and don’t be afraid to say their name—it’s music to the ears of their loved one.
- Remember special dates: Birthdays (both of the person who died and the person you are supporting), anniversaries, and holidays are often grief triggers. Put these dates and the date of death in your calendar so you can call, text, or send a card. It will make more of a difference than you can possibly imagine.
Joanne Fink is an award-winning designer, calligrapher, and best-selling author with more than a million books in print. Her personal memoir, “When You Lose Someone You Lovepublished by Companion House Press, brings comfort hope and healing to the bereaved. Learn more about Joanne’s books and journey at www.WhenYouLoseSomeone.coma