Helping a friend who is struggling with the death of a loved one requires the skill of attentive listening. Your physical presence and listening ear can be a soothing salve to their emotional wounds. Your friend may relate the story of the death again and again, but be patient and listen actively each time. Through each presentation of the story, your friend is taken a further step towards coming to terms with the reality of the death. And, your listening presence is a comforting tool for your friend to reach that reality.
When relating with your friend who is dealing with a recent death, be sure that you are acting with compassion. Don't ever say, "I know just how you're feeling." You don't. It is better to just listen and be there as means for comfort.
Try asking your friend for ways in which you can help them. If there isn't anything immediately pressing that you can do, just being present is always a gift. Allow your friend to share his or her feelings about the death and recognize that tears are a natural and appropriate expression of their pain.
One thing to avoid is trying to assuage your friend with trite phrases. Avoid phrases like, "Time will heal all wounds," or "Just keep your chin up; the sun will shine again." These phrases hurt more than they help. They tend to trivialize your friend's experience of grief and don't respect their need to mourn.
Know that Grief is Personal
Recognize that your friend's grief is personal. No one responds to death in the same way. While it may be possible to refer to general phases which people go through during a period of grief, everyone is different and may grieve differently. People may also take different lengths of time to mourn, so don't put a timetable on your friend's grief.
Offer Practical Assistance
Your friend may need some real help with daily responsibilities. You can help alleviate some of these responsibilities by making meals, washing clothes, mowing the lawn, or doing any other common task for your friend. By handling some of life's daily chores, you will free up time for your friend to adjust and cope with the recent death. Through practical assistance, you can be a true help to the well-being your friend's soul.
Keep in Touch
Your attendance at the funeral is significant. The funeral is an important ritual which provides you the opportunity to express your concern and love for your hurting friend. When expressing your concern, a touch of the hand or making eye contact can sometimes communicate much more than words.
After the funeral, be sure not to lose touch with your friend. The time after the funeral can often be a difficult time for those who have lost a loved one. It's during that time that things slow down and they have more time to focus on the pain in their heart. So, during this difficult time, be sure to give your friend a phone call or stop by to visit. Your friend may need you more during the weeks and months following the funeral than at the time of death.
Send a Personal Note
Sympathy cards can be nice, but there is just no substitute for a personally written note. But, what should you write? Write about a favorite memory you have of the person who has died or express the characteristics of that person that you will miss. When writing or calling your friend, make sure to use the departed one's name. Hearing the name can be a comfort to your friend and it shows that you have not forgotten the special person who was so much a part of your friend's life.
Be Aware of Holidays and Anniversaries
Far after the funeral, holidays and anniversaries may bring up strong emotions for your friend, for they emphasize the loved one's absence. Be sensitive to this and remain to a comfort during this time.
In Summary, Be Caring and Supportive
To sum up, just be sensitive to your friend who is experiencing the loss. Be a good listener, find practical ways of assistance, write caring notes, and express your love and concern. This is a time that your friend is weak and needs someone to lean on. Be available and open to love boldly.