A good friend has experienced the death of someone significant. You want to reach out and offer help to them but don't know what to do. You're worried you'll say the wrong thing and make it worse. What can you do?
At Mourning Hope we call it companioning when you walk with someone as they grieve. Companioning is not about fixing or relieving someone of pain. It is about being present to their pain and their struggles.
Here are a few ways to companion your friend.
Listen with your heart.
Even when you've heard the same story numerous times, be patient and compassionate. Telling their story is a huge part of the healing process for your friend.
People are unique and so is their grief.
Allow your friend to express whatever feelings or thoughts they may be experiencing without judgment. Some people will express their emotions openly and others will have a need to put those into action by doing something (building a memorial, baking, gardening, fund raising, etc.) Both ways are productive and healthy ways to grieve.
Allow them to experience the pain.
Try to avoid the natural urge to fix it or make it better. It is only by experiencing the pain that they move toward healing.
Offer practical help.
Often times daily tasks can seem overwhelming. It's helpful to offer to do specific tasks such as prepare a meal, mow a lawn, grocery shop, run errands, rather than make the general statement "let me know what I can do to help".
Attend the funeral if possible, remain available long afterwards. Brief visits, telephone calls, and personal notes helps your friend to know you are there for them long after the death.
Use the name of the person who has died.
Using their name helps you friend know you have not forgotten this person and can be comforting to hear the name of their loved one. It also helps your friend know you are someone who understands the significance of the loss in their life.
Be attentive to holidays and significant dates.
It's natural for your friend to experience difficulties during special occasions. These events emphasize the absence of the person who has died. Recognize that these times are naturally difficult and provide reassurance that what they are feeling is normal.