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In Early 2019 my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Three short months later she would pass away at the young age of 50. Only 6 months earlier my best friend’s mom was diagnosed with ALS which left her in critical care the weekend after Thanksgiving in 2018. Less than a year later she too would pass leaving her daughter, family and close friends to grieve. As painful as these experiences were to those closest to both women (now angels) it has been humbling for my best friend and I to be able to support one another through each of our losses. I’ve learned so much about the grieving process and how important a healthy support system is for healing and moving on with life after such a tragic experience. I’ve also come to find out that so many people around me (co-workers, friends, neighbors, etc.) are also dealing with grief from the loss of someone very close to them. Still there are many questions that go unasked when it comes to supporting a friend in grief.
What is most helpful to say when supporting a friend in grief?
Thinking about what to say and what not to say can often be a stumbling block to saying anything, and that resulting silence can be extremely painful to the person who is grieving. As hard as it may be to overcome your initial discomfort, acknowledging your friend’s loss is critical to their healing process. The support of family and friends is a key determinant in how long and how painful the grieving process may be, as well as how someone heals and recovers over time. You can be an important part of this recovery process.
The most important thing you can offer: No judgment
Grief is individual, nonlinear and varies in duration. Some people may be very outwardly sad, others not. Some may be visibly angry, and others may seem to be unaffected. Someone’s personality, support system, natural coping mechanisms and more will determine how a loss affects them. To learn more about grief check out this great resource HealGrief.org where you can learn more to help support a friend. You can also find information there that may help you cope with the loss and grief you may encounter in your own life.