Suggestions on How to be a Good Friend to Someone Who is Grieving
- Tell your friend, "I feel sad about _______'s death" and "I'm confused about what to do for you but want to be here for you." A sentence that starts with "I feel..." is best.
- If your friend is willing to talk, LISTEN. You may not have to say much at all. Let your friend talk about the death, about memories, about being angry, how other members of the family are handling the death, about how hard it is to be in school, etc.
- Go to the funeral or other events that are held. You don't have to say much at all. "I'm sorry." Hug your friend. If you want to say something more, talk about your good memory of an outing or an experience you had with the person who died.
- Don't forget that your friend's grief may last a long time. Mention the person who died, say his/her name, even weeks and months from now. Most of us forget about the death so fast, and the person grieving is left feeling very lonely is their pain.
- Send a card. Don't just sign the card but write about the person who died. "I remember the fun time we had a year ago when..."
- Admit that this is a scary experience, but you know it is for the person who is grieving too.
- Learn about grief. Look at websites or books or talk to someone (another friend, counselor, etc).
- Don't say, "I know how you feel." You don't. Often people who are grieving resent such comments.
- Try to avoid stock phrases like, "She/he is in a better place." "God needed him/her more than we did." "It was his/her time." "At least he/she did not suffer." Most people who are grieving do not find these comforting.
- Encourage your friend to do things. Ask him/her to go somewhere. Be with them. Don't change the subject if the conversation gets painful. The person grieving will quickly learn you are a person he/she can talk to about the "tough stuff."
- Don't always talk about death. Your friend needs breaks from the grief. Have fun. Laugh. Enjoy the things you used to enjoy together.
- Don't say, "Call me if you need me." The griever will not call. You may choose to contact him/her and ask how he/she is doing. You may need to provide support without being asked.
- Remember that holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and weekends are the most difficult times.
- Be yourself...and don't be afraid of making mistakes. If you care, that will come through loud and clear. Supporting someone who is grieving is more a matter of the heart than of the intellect.
*Adapted from the monthly newsletter of the Minnesota Coalition for Death Education and Support.