Grief is a complex and messy monster. There is no timetable or set of rules for grief. It is an individualistic feeling where each person experiences it in their own way. It can be lonely and overwhelming, or confusing and angering. Someone who loses someone close to them needs you, their friend's support and compassion now more than ever.
Do: Be there.
Seeing a friend lose a loved one or someone close to them can be unbearable. Witnessing their pain can be the most painful thing you experience, especially when there is no easy or simple fix for it. So sometimes instead of facing and bearing their pain, we hide from their pain and ours. With no perfect words or perfect shows of support popping to our minds we disappear.
However, the worst thing to do is to do nothing. Sometimes the most supportive thing you can do for someone grieving is to just simply be there. Check in. Check in any way you know how, whether that's a quick text or an invite to grab a cup of coffee together. Check in's don't take much effort, but they can mean the world to a grieving friend.
Don't: Say, "Call me if you need anything!"
Do: Be reliable.
While there are no perfect words to say to a grieving friend, one of the most imperfect things to say is, "Call me if you need anything!" Even if their need for a shoulder to cry on or food that isn't take-out is at a critical point, they are not going to call. The energy needed to muster up even a response to that statement is high and costing. For a grieving friend simply making a phone call to ask for anything can be asking for far more than their strength allows. Instead provide concrete and reliable plans and statements. Go with "I will" statements instead of "I can" ones. "I will be there at 6pm on Wednesday to take your recycling out," or "I will bring coffee by Tuesday morning on my way to work." These statements and plans don't need to be big, small and simple work just as well and are sometimes even more helpful as long as they are consistent and dependable.
Don't: Say, "In my experience…"
Do: Be a listener.
Sometimes when trying to identify with a grieving friend we try comparing our own experiences with theirs. However, this can lead to irritation and disappointment from a grieving friend. Everyone experiences grief a little differently which might make an interjection or comparison feel as though the grief they feel right now is minimized. Talk less. Listen more. Even if finding words is as difficult for your grieving friend, as it might be for you, your patient ears are a much needed gift. Sometimes there are no perfect words to be said or heard so we must fight the urge to speak. Silence is ok. Resist the impulse to fill the silence. Sometimes your presence alone is the most comforting thing for a grieving friend.
While grief can be an intricate and unpleasant thing, different for each person, the need for support is the same for all. Finding the right type of support for a friend can be tricky and confusing, but most times for a grieving friend the support they need is an attempt at understanding or an attempt in general at all. Be a loving friend, be a supporting friend, and above all, be their friend!