How to help a grieving friend

Has your friend lost a loved one? Our expert shares some ways to reach out and offer support to a grieving friend.

By Kait Fowlie

How to help a grieving friend
©iStockphoto.com/digitalskillet
When someone you love loses a friend or family member, you may be at a loss as to how to respond. It can be hard to know exactly what to say or what to do, especially when you know those wounds may last a lifetime.

Despite the sensitivity of the situation, there are a few ways you can help.

"It's very common for people to feel awkward and not know what to say to a friend who has had a tragic loss in his or her life," explains Susan Ockrant, a therapist based in Oakville, Ont. "Often this is difficult because it is hard to see people we care about so sad and in pain, and we feel helpless."

Don't let feelings of helplessness get in the way of being there for your friend. Ockrant shares some expert tips on how to become a positive part of the healing process.

1. Let your friend know you recognize her suffering
You may feel like the time is never right or that you don't want to remind your friend of her loss, but it is important to let her know you recognize her suffering.

"It can be helpful if you just ask her how she has been doing. If the person is having difficulty talking, it might also be good to explain that you want to be a support, but aren't sure what she needs," explains Ockrant.

When you're honest, there's no way you can say the wrong thing. If your friend isn't willing to talk at that time, don't push. Let her know you're there for her by reaching out in a less direct way, Ockrant advises. "Don't be afraid to send her an email or call regularly to let her know you're thinking about her and that you would still like to talk when she's ready."

2. Be patient
Be prepared for your friend to go through the five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Don't take it personally if he or she lashes out or acts irrationally around you.

"Anger is a common feeling and stage of grief that occurs at some point after the loss of a loved one. It can also feel like your friend is jealous, resentful or scared," explains Ockrant. "Try to be as patient as you can and let your friend express his anger while you listen. Try not to interrupt even if your friend tells you about the same memory or worry over and over. Sharing often helps people heal."

Page 1 of 2 -- Learn how to help your friend deal with the pressures of everyday life on page 2.


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