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How to help a grieving friend...

...and why we find it so difficult.

It's their grief not yours.

Ever been lost for words when a friend or loved one is experiencing a devastating loss? You’re not alone.

You want to say something helpful and meaningful but it all sounds trite or clumsy. 

Trying so hard to get it right, we often end up saying nothing at all - better to do or say nothing than get it wrong.

The thing is we're making it about us and not the one we so want to help.

In truth, as humans, we’ll be lucky get it right even half the time. There's no script for these difficult times. All we can do is our imperfect best. And be there.

Grief is exhausting.  The 'grief brain' is  in automatic, survival mode.

Decision-making, remembering dates and appointments, paying bills, lots of routine tasks, are like carrying rocks up a mountain for the grief-stricken brain.

The most helpful and loving thing you can do for your friend is to find ways to lighten the load and above all, be there and listen. And go on listening.


Simple things to bear in mind:

  • Let your friend do their grief their way. We all grieve differently. 

  • Your friend is in pain. Accept you can’t fix it or make it better. Listen.

  • Be honest. Tell them you don’t know what to do or say. Be you. 

  • Don’t expect them to be interested in how you feel. If you find this hurtful, get some support.

  • ‘Let me know if you need anything’ will never happen.  ‘I’m going to the shop now/tomorrow, what do you need?’ will.  Call from the shop.

  • Identify little routine things that need doing but never clear up or organise unless asked to - what's mess to you will be familiarity and comfort to them.

  • Be reliable. Show up on time. Text reminders of arrangements..

  • Love beats perfection. Just be present.

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