How to show up for someone in grief
March 26, 2021
It’s really hard to know what to do when a friend is struggling with something really difficult. For example, grief. What do you do when a friend is grieving and there seems to be no “right” thing to say.
Well, let me let you in on a little secret—there is no right thing to say. Whatever you say will not be able to change their grief, or help them move through it faster. Grief is a process we all have to journey through in our own way and time.
Sometimes we have the best intentions. We want to do something to make someone feel better because watching people we love in pain is heart-wrenching. But sometimes the best thing you can do for those you love when they are suffering is to just be there with them in the icky part.
Sometimes it will feel so uncomfortable and we won’t know what to say so we won’t say anything at all. It seems maybe a little easier to keep others’ uncomfortable emotions at an arm’s length and tell ourselves they’ll reach out when they need us.
Having just recently lost someone close to me, I know this first-hand and from both sides. While I was sitting in my grief I noticed people all around me handling me differently. So, I thought maybe it would be helpful for us to debrief here on some tips and tricks to support loved ones going through it.
Here’s what I was thinking as I watched people I love very much around me deal with my grief:
1) We all have those intentions to save, to help, to caretake, and that’s a beautiful thing, but sometimes the best thing we can do is ignore the tendencies to want to make things better and just love our people as they are in the tough stuff and let them feel it and let them know we are there. Phrases like, “he lived a long life,” or “I understand,” aren’t all that helpful in the eye of the storm, especially when each of us has unique lived experiences and there isn’t a way possible to understand anyone else’s perfectly.
2) Just keep showing up. It’s uncomfortable to watch someone else’s grief and feel like your hands are tied, but keep showing up for them and letting them know you’re there. To know you have a community to fall back on can be healing. And it’s better to show up and stick your foot in your mouth and apologize later than to not show up at all. Never once when I was experiencing grief have I looked at a kind text message from a friend on my phone and thought, “man how awful that they checked up on me.”
3) If the grieving person doesn’t respond don’t take it personally.
4) If someone doesn’t ask for your advice, don’t give it. (I’ve learned this the hard way.) And if you want to give advice, but aren’t sure, it may be a good idea to ask if someone wants it first.
5) If someone doesn’t tell you that they lost someone or are grieving don’t take that personally either. It doesn’t mean you aren’t part of their inner circle, it just means they need to take care of themselves right now, and broadcasting their grief maybe isn’t what they want to do. Someone else’s grief is not about you.
There is no sidestepping grief. We will all experience it if we haven’t already. We will all watch people we love experience it and it will be hard and gut-churning, but it’s a part of life. Showing up and showing love is the best way to be there for another human being in grief and in life. I am beyond grateful for anyone that has helped me through a trying time by being there, by day after day continuously showing up for me. Making sure I’m eating and drinking water and getting rest and knowing that’s all I wanted and needed. Even when I don’t want to talk about my feelings (shocking, I know), even when I just want to sleep, they just kept showing up and I am so very grateful.
Grief isn’t fun, but it’s life and it’s human, and we can come out of it on the other side. And if you are grieving right now and happen to be also experiencing moments of joy amongst the moments of pain know that, that is valid and is not disrespectful to the one you lost. All feelings at all times are valid because they are yours. Normalize it. I love you, I hope you have a wonderful day. XOXO, CAMDW.
PS This is a reminder that I am not a trained mental health professional, but a life coach in-training and a human who has experienced these emotions. If you are suffering do not suffer in silence. Reach out and let’s find a trained mental health professional that can help you.