Later tonight, I’m meeting with a friend who’s going through a rough time. In the past two weeks, he’s lost two family members and a friend. As you can imagine, that’s a lot to take all at once.
You’ve probably found yourself in a similar position, either having lost a loved one or offering support to a grieving friend.
When friends are going through a rough patch, there are two ways people usually react: some like to step up and offer support, while others feel awkward about broaching the subject, choosing to wait for the tough times to pass instead.
For me, I think that if my friend brings up the topic, then it’s my job as a friend to spend time with them and help them talk things through, even if it makes me uncomfortable. This is an approach I usually don’t take if I’ve heard about their loss of a loved one indirectly.
When I meet with my friend later tonight, we’re just going to hang out and grab a drink and some dinner. I’ll ask him how he’s feeling and allow him to share his thoughts and ideas, while I do little more than sit back, listen, and let him get whatever he needs to off his chest. If he doesn’t want to talk about it, I won’t press. Instead, I’ll steer the conversation to focus on our interests and personal stories, and just chat as we normally would.
When friends are grieving, they do so in different ways. Some will want to address the topic head-on. Others just want the company you usually provide; they want to move past the pain they’re feeling and do something that feels normal and gives them a chance to breathe.
Try to avoid playing doctor and forcing them to share their feelings or get something off their chest. Just because they’re not doing it with you, it doesn’t mean they’re not seeking advice from another friend or venting their feelings to someone else. Let them dictate what they disclose.
If you’re aware of a traumatic experience that’s happened to a friend and you haven’t heard from them in an unusual amount of time, give them a call to make sure they are OK. You don’t have to bring up the subject directly; just ask how they’re doing and if they’d like to get together for some food or coffee. People are often afraid to reach out and ask for help or worry they’ll been seen as being a downer, so sometimes knowing they have a support system can be a big help.
Helping grieving friends is never easy, but it’s a reality. Do your best to be there for the friends you care about in a friendly, non-intrusive manner.