Funeral Home Traditions
Funeral Planning Tips
Selecting a Funeral Home
Facts about Caskets
What to Do when Someone Dies Part I
What to Do when Someone Dies Part II
What to Do when Someone Dies Part III
Clothes to Be Buried In
What to Do when Someone Dies
Part 3 of What to do when a Loved One Dies:
It's perhaps not discussed enough in our modern society, but knowing what to say to, or do for, a friend who has lost a loved one can be difficult. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules, and certainly no text books or classes that address this topic directly. So this article aims to help with a little common sense advice for this confusing and uncomfortable circumstances that everyone finds himself confronted with at several times in his lifetime. Here are some tips.
Avoid the Temptation to just do Nothing:
Because knowing what to do when a friend has lost a family member is so difficult, many people simply do nothing. Some have even been known to skip a memorial service. This is a mistake if one's goal is to be helpful to a friend. Though being a blessing to someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one can be uncomfortable and maybe even a little awkward, it's important to make an attempt. Contrary to some versions of common sense, total silence toward a grieving soul is not a good way to help.
The best advice for someone who wants to help a friend in the midst of grief is to simply be honest. If you're uncomfortable or simply don't know what to say, it's never wrong to say so. Your friend is uncomfortable too, of course. That's part of the definition of grief. So he or she will certainly appreciate your honesty and even identify with it. And your confession will likely lead to a comforting chat. So, as in just about every other facet of life, honesty in the midst of grief is always the best policy.
Be a Good Listener:
The main thing anyone who is grieving needs in a friend is simply a listener. So, after you've opened things up for a healthy conversation by simply being honest, the next step is to just listen. The beauty in this step of what to do for a friend whose loved one has died is that you do not actually have to do anything. Just listen. There is no need to take any action on what you hear (as we'll see in the next section of this article). All that's required is some sympathetic gestures and two open ears. You may also be called upon to accept a hug or two, but it's best to leave that for your friend to request.
Avoid Giving Advice:
Listening brings with it a strong temptation to take action of some sort. You will likely be inclined to offer advice to your friend as he or she pours out emotions. But offering advice is best avoided. Your friend just needs, as we say, some caring expressions on your face and obviously open ears. She does not need your opinion about what she should do or how she should feel. So do not offer such. And do not feel obligated to offer common words of wisdom to a grieving soul: “Things will be okay.” “It's time to move on” or “You're loved one would want you to be happy.” The best bet is to simply ask God to lead you to say the best, most uplifting, thing you say to your friend. And let his response be your guide.
Offer Simple Services:
While the first reaction of many people will be to offer advice to a grieving friend, the best thing that you can offer him is simply help. Offer to cook him dinner or maybe take him to a movie or some other form of escape. Do something to help with the necessities of life that can become an unbearable burden to a person caught in the grips of grief. Your friend may need assistance in, say, contacting doctors or others who have just a business interest in the loved-one's death. Your offer to help with this sort of mundane task will come as even more of a relief than you may realize.
Don't Wait for a Call:
Friends of grieving souls often make the mistake of keeping their distance. Yes, this is a huge mistake. A grieving spirit is often too weak to even consider asking for help, even though it would be hugely welcomed. In this day in which our modern society prides itself on encouraging a spirit of independent self-reliance, it is difficult to ask for help with such routine matters as housework, transportation or bureaucratic red tape. And it is even more difficult to ask for the emotional support that a good listener can provide. But that does not mean that such services are desperately needed in a time of grief. So, as a dear friend, it is up to you to simply offer such support. If your offer is rejected, you should honor that – temporarily. But there is definitely no harm in bringing the topic up again. Care should be taken, of course, in the timing of your offers, but a good friend of a person who has lost a loved one will not take no, ultimately, as a final answer. It is important that you avoid the urge to wait for your friend to call upon you for help and, rather, to be proactive in your support. You should be careful to avoid forcing your help upon a friend, of course, but you should never be bashful about offering it. It is a mistake to assume that your friend's reluctance to ask for help is a sign that he or she does not want – or is not in desperate need – of your help. Never be afraid to make sure your support is evident.
Refer to Professional Help as Needed:
Finally, there will be times when your dear friend will be in obvious need of professional help, whether it be from a attorney for business matters related to the loved one's death or a grief counselor who can help your friend cope in a healthy way with the grief he or she is experiencing. Convincing your friend to accept such help may be tricky, but a consultation or two with a professional will likely be wise. Do not be afraid to pick up the phone and call someone for help. Most reputable professionals will be glad to schedule a free consultation with you to discuss your friend's needs and offer you wise advise for how you can proceed. It is strongly advised that you accept such assistance.
In general, helping a friend who is grieving the loss of a loved one can be tricky and may even become unpleasant or uncomfortable. But rest assure, if you attempt such a thing, you are doing God's work. And God will, of course, be with you.