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Helping a friend cope with grief

Grief is an incredibly painful emotion no one should have to go through alone. Although a person going through such a hard time may have trouble expressing how he or she is feeling, having a friend nearby who is willing to listen can really help the healing process. We share some tips to help you support a friend who is experiencing grief as best you can.

Woman consoling a friend

Understanding grief

The most commonly accepted way for understanding the stages of grief is the Kubler-Ross model. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross broke grief down into five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. This is, of course, a general model, and it is important to remember that no two people experience grief in exactly the same way.

Validate emotions

There is no science to predict how a person will react to a sudden change or loss. And there is no such thing as a right or wrong series of emotions that people will experience when such an event occurs. A person may feel anger, guilt, relief or any number of emotions as they go through the stages of grief. Some of these emotions can feel particularly isolating. That’s why it is so important to allow your friend to vocalize her emotions so you can assure her that what she is feeling is OK. Putting those feelings out there and acknowledging their existence is the first step toward healing.

Let your friend feel

It is natural for you to want to come to your friend’s rescue and assure her that things will get easier. And though such statements may be true, it often isn’t what your friend needs to hear. When a person is experiencing grief, it is important to allow that person to feel whatever he or she is feeling. Ultimately no one can take away your friend’s pain except your friend and the journey he or she experiences over time. Though you can certainly be there to listen, you cannot “fix” the situation, so it is better not to attempt to do so.

Avoid cliches

We are all familiar with such cliches as “he’s in a better place” and “she would want you to move on.” Though they come from a very honest place of wanting to comfort a person who is upset, they can often have the opposite effect. These sayings can cause your friend to feel frustrated for not being able to see them for herself, and that can instill a sense of isolation and distress. Sometimes it is better to simply remain silent and be there rather than offer platitudes.

Be present

Ultimately the most important thing you can do is be present. By listening attentively and opening yourself up to your friend, you’ll give her a safe space in which she can feel everythings she is feeling. When you are truly present, you offer your friend all the support you possibly can.

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