HELPING A GRIEVING FRIEND-
Relationships are fluid by nature. It can be hard to know what to say when a friend has lost a spouse or beloved family member. Sometimes words we think might be helpful may appear dismissive of a grieving person’s real feelings about their loss.
For example, a well-meaning individual may consider it helpful to tell a grieving friend, “I know how you feel.” People who have survived the loss of a loved one, however, can’t truly know how another experiences grief -- because no two people grieve loss in the same way.
Grief is an individual process for every person, involving many complex feelings that can change from moment to moment. It is perfectly normal to feel angry one minute, then profoundly sad the next. A person feeling happy as they relive a favorite memory of the person they lost may suddenly feel guilty -- ashamed to feel happy during a time they think is reserved exclusively for sorrow.
It can be helpful to give a grieving friend the freedom to express their feelings to you, knowing that you won’t judge them or expect them “to move on.” Saying, “I don’t know how you feel, but I care about you and am here for you” can help validate a person’s right to experience their grief individually -- free from other people’s expectations. Just letting the person share the story of their loss in a kind, understanding way can promote healing.
Another thing people often tell a grieving person is to “call you if they need anything.” While the intent of this message is genuine, it is a statement that places the burden on the grieving person to follow-up. Yet, following a loss, grieving people often feel disorganized, and may lack the motivation to reach out for your assistance.
As you’re able, be concrete with offers of help. Follow-up with a phone call offering a specific service, such as cooking a meal, running an errand, or picking up groceries (or anything else the person might find helpful).
It’s also all right if the person does not want your help. By being proactive and offering your help, you can help the person feel supported -- and remembered -- during a difficult time.
It may also be helpful for grieving adults to sit down with other people going through the grief process.
If you’re concerned about a friend in the community, or have any questions about grief, please contact our Family Services Senior Social Work Department at 847-588-8460.
Senior Social Services
In addition to counseling and case management services, our Senior Social Work Department offers the following support groups (there is no cost to attend groups but registration is required, please call 847-588-8460):In addition to counseling and case management services, our Senior Social Work Department offers the following support groups (there is no cost to attend groups but registration is required, please call 847-588-8460):
A support group that is available for senior parents coping with the demands of caring for medically, emotionally or financially dependent adult children.