“There is nothing I can say to take away your hurt but you have my shoulder to cry on and my loving hugs. Know that I will be here for you when you need me.” — Unknown
Because people react to loss differently, how we show up for someone varies by individual. The most important thing to remember, however, is to ‘show up’.
It may seem easier to ignore a friend in grief thinking they’d rather be left alone or not be bothered. Moreover, it can be uncomfortable and awkward to approach a grieving friend or loved one, especially when we don’t know what to say or do. However, it is better to risk a little discomfort than stay in the shadows. Whether a friend or loved one is grieving a loss, a divorce, a job, or any other situation riddled with adversity, step up. It is important that we help one another through tough times.
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Don’t ask what you can do; instead, tell your friend or loved one what you are going to do. Then, ask for permission to do it. When we ask for direction, the grieving individual may feel they are burdening you or that you are only asking out of obligation. Take initiative and inquire, “Is it okay if I bring you a meal tomorrow night?”
It can take a death to realize that holding a grudge is completely irrational in the face of a loss. It’s time to put old resentments aside and offer sincere condolences. Most people will not only appreciate the effort, but feel gratitude for the reconnection.
Make time in your calendar to spend with a loved one or friend who is experiencing a loss. There is no greater gift than one’s time.
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Loss can deplete our energy, especially as a black cloud lingers over our head. Even though the nature of loss is serious, laughing together can be cathartic and release stress. Don’t be afraid to lighten the mood by making a few jokes, recounting humorous memories, or even pointing out the absurd humor in life. Those who have passed would want their loved ones to seek out moments of joy and laughter.
Don’t try to placate a friend’s grief with meaningless phrases like the following:
“I know how you feel.” No, you don’t.
“At least he’s not suffering anymore.” I still miss him.
“She got to live a long life.” It doesn’t make my sadness any less painful.
Instead, listen or sit quietly with your loved one. Your presence alone is enough.
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Bring your best self to a friend or loved one’s side. Energy is contagious. If you show up well rested and in a good mood, there is a better chance that your positive vibes will lift up the people around you. Besides, it takes energy, concentration, and focus to be a skilled listener.
Continue to check in on your friend or family member. Even if they are not receptive to your help or presence, back up and offer again in the future. Some people need time alone to process through grief, but knowing a friend is available if needed can provide comfort and reassurance.
Life is challenging and loss is the most difficult challenge of all. If death teaches us one thing, it is that there is nothing more important than human connection. It is critical that we show up and offer love and support to those experiencing loss even when we’re not sure what to say or do. In the end, it is the effort that your friend or loved one will remember.
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