Have you ever had someone close to you experience heartbreak, sadness, grief, or all three at the same time? What did you do? How did you help your friend deal with the things that were hurting? Some people are made tougher, and they can bounce back from the pain to acceptance in a shorter time compared to others. Others tend to take a long time before recovering, and that is completely okay. Healing is a process and not everyone has the same number of steps.
Whether it is from a romantic relationship breakup, responsibility problems, work challenges and frustrations, and loss, people experience pain and grief differently. During this time is when people feel at their lowest and most vulnerable, it is important to be surrounded by people that can remind them of life. Think of the last time you were sad and in pain, you might have probably wanted to be left alone, but the truth is, being amongst friends and loved one’s help.
Humans are, after all, social creatures, and we thrive in numbers. That is also the same with supporting someone who is (still) grieving.
If you are reading this article, chances are you have someone that is not that easy to comfort. This person might be drifting away or shutting you out. However, that doesn’t mean that this person doesn’t see you, it just takes patience, timing, and the right words to say.
Do Not Tell Them That It’s Okay
Being a friend, or comforting someone in general, is not easy. Not everyone has a way with words, and not everyone has a word of affirmation love language. If your friend is grieving and is not a fan of talking and opening up, he or she might be bottling everything up. So, once you tell him/her it’s okay, the person may snap at you for being insensitive.
Why? Because it is definitely not okay. Your friend is going through something and is probably having a hard time accepting what happened, so it is not okay. While it seems better to tell them they’re going to be okay, don’t. Not yet. At this point in their lives, they do not feel like they are going to be okay. They are probably feeling lost and hopeless, so telling them such a thing would be as if you are rushing them to be okay.
You can ask them instead. “Are you okay?” and “What can I do to help?” can go far. They probably need help with many things such as legal paperwork and funeral planning or arrangements. The question offers concern but, at the same time, respects boundaries. The question doesn’t pry either, and should the person allow himself to open up, then that’s good. If not, you just need to be more patient.
Do Not Tell Them to Move On
It is a common thing to say when dealing with a friend who just lost a romantic relationship or a job. When a friend is facing a breakup, telling them to move on is akin to invalidating their feelings. A breakup can be because of many reasons, but ending a relationship is never easy. Your friend would have many things going on his/her head: questions, hope, more questions, and memories. Unlike comforting a friend who lost someone, supporting someone in this situation is harder because relationships are somehow messier to accept than loss.
Reasons get blurred, judgments become cloudy, and people get stuck in a loop. Although moving on is the right thing to do, these people are still very fragile, and either they would simply hear you, or they would only get more stubborn in doing so.
Do Not Force Them to Talk to You About What Happened
As aforementioned, not everyone is a fan of talking, and some take time to process what they are feeling. Although this write-up is advising you to talk to them, there are times that you could only be there for them. Your presence would be enough, and there’s no need to pry them open. These people have things going on in their minds that are already draining them, so be understanding and patient. Do not hold it against them if they are not yet talking to you about what happened.
Be patient until they are ready to open up. You can possibly ask them too if they want to talk about it. That alone is assurance that you are going to be there without prying and making them uncomfortable.
Being there for a grieving person is hard, but they need you now more than ever. If you have no idea what they are going through, you can only be sensitive, patient, and understanding, and that would be enough. They might not tell you now, but it is.