Recommend help. There is only so much that a friend or family member can offer to someone who is grieving without putting too much strain on themselves. Gently suggest seeking therapeutic help to give them a special place to cope with their loss.
Continue to check in on them. At the time of a funeral, many people offer help and support to the grieving person. As the weeks and months pass everyone’s lives move forward and they generally forget to follow up on their offerings of help and support. Be the person who follows up. You don’t have to give all of your energy, but your caring will be appreciated and will provide untold comfort.
Ask them what they need. It’s normal to feel you can guess what your friend needs based on what you might need in their position. Because we’re all different, it is best to ask them what it is that you can do for them. If they say “I don’t know” or “nothing,” resist the desire to walk away in your frustration or worry. Just offer your support in whatever way you can and let them know that you will be there when they think of something.
Offer the bereaved ways to memorialize. Funerals and memorial services work to give support and closure to the bereaved. We can also memorialize in other ways, like planting trees, writing letters or having remembrance gatherings.
While permanent ink isn’t for everyone, a tattoo is a great way to place a marker on the body to remind them of the one they lost. Whether the tattoo is a likeness, a symbol, a design, initials or dates, a tattoo shows that the one you lost will always be with you.
Resist telling them how strong they are. We are often inclined to praise the person who appears to be coping stoically with a loss. The problem is that we need to allow them to be human and vulnerable sometimes too. After all, there’s strength in letting out your emotions from time to time.
Variables to grief. One person’s grief is never the same as another’s. Variables include the cause and length of death, the personal resiliency of the grieving person, what their previous experiences have been, how large their support network is and their relationship to the person lost. Be understanding of how this can change their experience of grief from your own or someone else you have known.
Recognize the stages of grief. Most people suffering a loss will go through these stages, often in no particular order and sometimes repeating stages: denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance. Each one is healthy and necessary. The more familiar you are with these stages, the better equipped you’ll be to support your friend.
Let go of time expectations. The person grieving may struggle for longer than expected. If this happens, regardless of how frustrating or frightening it may be for you, let them grieve for however long they need, knowing you won’t judge them for it.
Photos the Family Doesn’t Have
Many times as a friend or extended family member you may have photos that the immediate family does not have. Consider putting together a memorial album or CD of photos the family doesn’t have of their loved one. As the weeks and months pass they will likely be glad to have as many pictures as possible.