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I have a friend who is going through the grief of a loss. How can I help?

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Therapist Answer and Transcription

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Hi, it’s Jenna.

I love the heart behind this question! When we love someone or care about them and they’re walking through grief, we often don’t know how to be present in a helpful way, but we really want to. We sometimes can just quickly say things like “I know how you feel” or “be strong” or “well, at least you can have another child” or “God must have needed her or him more than you did.” All of these are really hurtful statements and we don’t want to be hurtful in the grief, but very often we just don’t know what to say.

Some helpful things that we can do and say would include things like “I am so sorry for your loss” or sometimes it’s helpful to say “you know, my favorite memory of…” and then say the loved ones name. It’s kind of wild how in death everyone stops using the person’s name. It can be incredibly powerful and healing to use that person’s name and mention something about them that you really loved or really enjoyed or a favorite memory or ask the person who’s grieving the loss if they would like to share the things that they love the most about the person or one of their favorite memories. This can be very cathartic.

Perhaps the most important thing is not really what we say it’s what we do. People need our presence and so if we can just show up with a cup of coffee a casserole or some Dunkin Donuts that we get takeout and just sit with the person, we can say things like “I really don’t know how you must be feeling, but I am so sorry for how painful I know this must be and I just want to sit with you. You can talk if you want to and you don’t have to if you don’t want to. I’m here.”

If we know the person’s needs rather than asking “hey, if you have any needs, let me know.” We can just do them. Very often people who are in grief don’t even know what they need. They’re in a state of shock and despair and sadness. And so if we just show up and do the things that need to happen that can truly be a beautiful statement of love and care. It’s really the simple things that matter the most. Taking the time to be with the person calling them even if we don’t know what to say and just letting them share or not share cry or not cry in the way that’s right for them with no judgment. No unsolicited advice just the gift of our presence, heart to heart, will mean the world.

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