My friend is suffering due to a death in their immediate family. I want to reach out to help but I don’t want to intrude. Do you have some tips on how I can be supportive without overstepping my boundaries?
-A Friend Who Cares
There are very few things in life worst than experiencing the death of a loved one. Providing support for someone who is grieving can be challenging. With one wrong move we can say or do something that might act as a trigger and create more pain to an already hard situation. However, it is not good to stand back and do nothing. I have lived long enough to have lost, unfortunately, many loved ones. I have also had the privilege to be able to support friends and family who were in mourning. What I have learned along the way is that what the mourner needs from others the most for us to apply the principles of L.O.V.E. I created this acronym to stand for the following: L- Listen, O- Observe, V-Value, E-Empathize
Take time to listen. Listening is a skill that needs to be learned. You are effectively listening when you let the other person speak freely without interruption, without interruption, without interruption!!! This is not the time to give advice or share your opinion, story, point of view etc… If you truly want to listen, then you must truly be quiet and allow the other person to speak for as long as they want until THEY feel that they have been heard. A person who is grieving may want to talk about their feelings and need someone whom they can trust to speak to. If that person is you please remember that its about them not you. This will require humility, and patience.
In other words, pay attention to your surroundings to the person who is mourning. Become acclimated with their mannerism and look for opportunities to help. Buy groceries if you notice they are missing. If the doorbell is ringing, answer it. Paying attention allows you to help in specific ways. For example, you notice you’re your friend’s home is a little untidy and you know there are guest coming. You can offer to help clean. This is more beneficial then saying, “If you need anything let me know.” Most people who are mourning are generally so overwhelmed that they wouldn’t even know what to ask for. So offer to give rides to out of town relatives instead. You will find more to do by building your observation skills. By the way, always give them the option to say no and respect it.
Value is about respect. Do not judge mourner behavior or words in a negative light. You might see a person who is grieving say or do something strange. If it is not hurting anyone, leave him or her to it. Their journey is their own. They have a right to their feelings and emotions. They have a right to do what they need to in order to find healing and peace. Never belittle them, instead, quietly support them.
To truly understand somebody, you have to walk in their shoes. You will see behavior that may not make any sense if you judge it from your worldview and perspective. You must try to image what life looks like at that moment using their filter. When in doubt always ask yourself, “If I were in their shoes, what would I have done?” This will help you be more sensitive to their needs and enable you to be able to help effectively.
There is a lot of information out there on this topic. I encourage you to read books on this topic, look up blogs, and talk to some professional counselors and clergy for advice. The sad truth is this. Sooner or later we will all be in a positions where our friend will need our help because they are grieving. May we all be ready… I will leave you with this quote.
Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve. – Earl Grollman
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