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How to support a friend

Two friends helping another friend cope with their grief.
Two friends helping another friend cope with their grief.

When someone you care about is dealing with a difficult moment in their life, it can be difficult to support them especially if they have suffered a loss and are grieving. 

The intense painful emotions that can include depression, anger, guilt and sadness tend to make it uncomfortable to offer support. The most important thing you can do for your loved one is to simply be there. However, there are many ways that you can be supportive and show care. Here are some of my steps and additional information from that can help you show support to someone who is grieving. 

Be present: Spending time with a person who is mourning can take different forms. Offer to go shopping, watch a movie or just stay home with them. The activity you do together can be big or small. Being there with them through that process helps take their mind off the loss and gives them the confidence to get back into their previous routines. 

Help them look toward the future: Looking forward to an event or activity helps a grieving person focus on something other than their recent loss. It could be a birthday, graduation, party or vacation. Whatever it is that they are anticipating, help them realize the excitement and joy it can bring to their lives. 

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Give them space: A balance of company and personal space is very important. As much as that person needs support and quality time, they also need to be by themselves to reflect on what happened. It is unhealthy to run from a loss or pretend it did not happen, so that person will need time to confront the loss in their own way and make peace with the fact that their loved one is gone. 

Listen and understand: Remember to actually listen and talk to the person about their lost loved one. Sometimes talking about that person and their life can be healing. Oftentimes people just text the grieving person during the week after their loved one has passed, but grief tends to last a long time. Therefore, check in often and ask how they are. Just a simple text can go a long way. 

Communicate that you understand: Showing sympathy is a good way to show support and offer comfort. If you are able to empathize, that is great. However, be careful with how you show empathy. Nobody wants to hear, “I know what you are going through.” Every person’s situation is different, and when they are feeling bad, it is likely that they will not want to hear about your loss. In fact, this can make that person more upset. Instead, use what you learned from your own loss to help them work through their feelings. 

Provide assurance: Let the person know that everything will be okay. It is important for them to hear those words so they know their pain will not last forever. 

You may be afraid of intruding, saying the wrong thing, or making your loved one feel even worse at such a difficult time. Or maybe you think there is little you can do to make things better and that’s understandable, but don’t let your discomfort prevent you from reaching out. Remember that now more than never, your loved one needs your support.

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