by Samantha Moore
Grief is a natural reaction to loss. Each person grieves in their own way, but how do you help a grieving friend? What could you possibly say to bring comfort to their aching heart?
How do you react when it's their Dad?
And they've just bought their high school formal dress?
When one of my best friends discovered she was going to lose her dad, I was shocked. Never had I expected such an extreme loss to come so soon in our lives. The shock I felt led to a breakdown of epic proportions, but I found I was not only crying for her dad, but for her as well. Soon after receiving the news, I realised that it was my duty, as her friend, to check on her.
This was when a dreadful revelation dawned on me: I had no clue how to talk to someone on the verge of losing a family member, especially not their dad.
At first, I was going to send a message expressing how sorry I was, as I am genuinely devastated about her dad. But it didn’t seem right to talk about my own sadness when hers was obviously more intense. The clock was ticking, and I couldn’t just avoid it.
Do you want me to call you?
I sent her a message.
The response was quick.
Heart pounding and tears in my eyes, I spoke to my friend through her sobs as realisation after realisation hit her. Nobody wants to listen to their closest friend suffer so much, especially when you don’t know what to say. We stayed on the phone for a short time, and I tried to reassure her, not that this was bound to happen one day, but that she would get through it. Perhaps that’s all a person grieving needs. Somebody to remind them that there are still good days to come.
Personal experience has proven that grieving friends need all the support and acknowledgement you can provide. Even if you are miles and miles away, ensure that you are reachable and remain in constant, if minimal, contact with your friend to help with their emotional needs.
It always feels like you could have done more, but that isn’t possible. A friend needs to know that they can break down and not feel as if it’s their responsibility to remain resolute in their devotion towards other family members' emotional states. Young people especially feel as if it is their duty to remain stoic and express their emotions in short, tear-filled bursts.
Unfortunately, there is no one way to help a grieving friend. It is your duty, as someone who cares about them, to be sensitive to their specific needs at that time. If they want to be alone, leave them be, but check on them once a day just in case. If they want company, and to be distracted, allow them that freedom, but make sure they do not neglect push their grief deep down into themselves.
Grieving is natural. We can only do the best that we can to help our friends understand that it won’t last forever, and that they are loved.
If you have a friend about to lose someone, or who has recently lost someone, be there for them as best as your own mind and emotions can handle. Even if you don’t know what you could possibly say to make them feel better, comfort them. Nothing is better than a familiar voice which seeks out you alone, and would keep talking with you until time ended if it made you feel better.
Please take care of yourself. If this article has stirred up dark feelings, or you need to talk to someone about your own or another's grief, here are some resources to help:
- Lifeline: 24/7 telephone crisis counselling on 13 11 14
- Carers Australia: support for anyone in a caring role. 1800 242 636
- Headspace: national youth mental health initiative
- Support After Suicide: resources for those who've lost someone to suicide
- Mensline: 24/7 phone support for men with family/relationship concerns. 1300 78 99 78
- The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement