Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 31, 2005
Just be there . . . and listen
Don't abandon a grieving friend
By LISA PETSCHE
Special to the WCR
When someone you know loses a loved one to death, you want to reach out to him or her (for simplicity, the latter will be used from here on) but may feel unsure of what to say or do.The following is some advice.
After the Funeral
- Continue to stay in touch after the funeral is over. That's when the reality of the loss - with all its implications - sets in, and bereaved people need support more than ever.
- Don't avoid the subject of the deceased person or mention of his name. It's comforting to the bereaved to know that others still remember their loved one as time goes by.
- Be patient with your friend. Since grief saps energy, take the initiative in the relationship for now, calling and arranging visits.
- Encourage her to take one day at a time and to trust that she will eventually heal enough to be able to move forward with her life. Recognize, though, that timelines for healing vary from one person to the next.
- Don't pressure your friend into doing things she doesn't feel ready for, such as sorting through and disposing of her loved one's belongings.
- Discourage her from making major life changes - such as relocating - for the time being, unless they're absolutely necessary.
- Encourage your friend to seek professional help if she's unable to function in her day-to-day life (suggestive of clinical depression), or if she appears to be stuck in one of the phases of grieving (for example, denial or anger).
- Remember special occasions throughout the year that are likely to be difficult: birthdays, wedding anniversaries and holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as the anniversary of death. Consider a memorial Mass card to mark the anniversary of death. If you live close by, offer to accompany her to the cemetery or a place her loved one enjoyed, such as a park or favourite restaurant.
Above all, keep in mind that bereaved people don't expect friends to provide answers to difficult, often philosophical questions - such as "Why did this happen?" - or to take away their pain. What they do want and need is the comfort of knowing they are not alone.
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