After the flowers have faded and the sympathy cards have all been packed away, what grieving people need most are friends. Faithful friends who are available and willing to be on hand when they’re needed but sensitive enough to step away when the bereaved person simply wants to be alone. Discerning friends who know the limitations of words. Wise friends who understand that their silent presence is often all that’s wanted.
The first thing you can do for your friend is allow her to talk. At those moments when she’s ready to give vent to her feelings, your role is to be a good listener. If you want to express something, it’s enough to say that you care and that you’re sorry. Explanations seldom console and advice is rarely helpful.
During these sessions, try to stay aware of your friend’s deeper emotions. Bear in mind that she may be angry as well as sad and that you need to give her time and space to acknowledge, express, and deal with these feelings. If it seems appropriate, don’t be afraid to encourage a good cry. And be patient – grief is a deep and complicated process and mourning can take a long time to work itself out. As you have opportunity, urge her to take care of herself by making sure that she gets enough exercise, rest, prayer, and recreation.
On the practical end of the spectrum, you can make yourself available to help with daily chores and necessities, such as yard work, housework, or washing the car. If you’re running an errand, call and ask your friend if there’s anything you can pick up for her while you’re out. If she has children, offer to baby-sit and go out of your way to give them special attention. Remember that they’re grieving too. Suggest that they write down what they’re feeling or express it in a drawing, and then spend some time discussing the results with them.
Above all, don’t avoid your friend. Take steps to insure that you can be there for her when she needs you. Write notes to her during especially difficult times, such as holidays and birthdays and anniversaries. You’ll find that a phone call or an invitation to lunch after church will make her day.
In the midst of all this, keep a watchful eye on your friend and make sure that she’s working through her grief in a healthy way. Watch for negative warning signs like excessive sleeping or drug and alcohol abuse. If you think she needs grief counseling, don’t hesitate to suggest it. Our Counseling staff can provide a list of trained therapists practicing in your area. You or your friend can also call our counselors if you feel their input would be helpful.
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