1. Don’t share stories of your personal loss.
You don’t have to relate to show empathy or sympathy. No one wants to hear your horror story from 10 years ago when they are living their own. Just listen and offer support.
2. Don’t forget.
Grief gets worse before it gets better. Until you have grieved, it is hard to understand that. Ask how someone is when it’s been six months, a year, three years.
Grief gets worse before it gets better.
3. Just be with them.
Take them to the movies, stay home, bring coffee, just be there! You don’t have to say anything. Cry with them when they cry, laugh when they laugh. They will appreciate your gentle presence and your time.
4. Don’t put too many social or practical pressures on them for a few years.
I know this seems crazy but just bringing the napkins to a social gathering was too overwhelming for me about a year after my mom passed. Try to take the load off for them. Offer to make a meal, clean their room, or do their laundry. You don’t have to become a personal assistant, but every so often show you care with an act of service.
5. Write Notes
Whether it is a card, a sticky note on their locker, or a text message, just put it out there that you love them. Give them social media shout outs or posts about the person they lost. It only takes a few minutes but it means a lot to know someone is thinking of them and cares.
6. Stand up for them.
Gossip is excruciating during difficult times. There may be all kinds of things being said about what happened, how the person is handling it, or what kind of friend they are. Speak well of them behind their back and encourage others to stick by and encourage them. Be the good friend you would want if you were in their shoes.
7. If you are a boss or a teacher, give them some space.
When we are grieving we don’t have the mental capacity to do a whole lot. It’s not that we don’t want to – it’s that we just can’t. Do whatever you can to allow someone who is grieving to take the time to wrap their head around what they just experienced. Gradually re-introduce responsibilities and adjust your expectations, understanding that it takes a few years to bring life back into focus.
8. Plan outings or vacations.
If they won’t take the time for themselves, make them. Plan a road trip to someplace off the beaten path, go to the beach or snow for the day. Take a break from everyday life and routine. Remind them how fun living can be!
9. Listen without judging.
People who are grieving may say some crazy things about life and how they are feeling. There may be a time for some gentle positive steering, but mostly they just need to get things out and express their emotions. Create a safe place free from gossip, judgment and advice so they can begin to share. Listen kindly, allow them to vent, and don’t overreact.
10. Encourage resources.
Encourage a support group and offer to go with them. Help find a counselor if they need it. Offer to read a book on grieving with them. It is vital to emotional health to talk out what is bottled up inside, so encourage your loved one to use the tools to heal.