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Understanding Grief and How to Be a Friend

Posted by Evelyn Kidd on

Whether you’re grieving, or a loved one is grieving, it is incredibly hard to know exactly what to do or say. 

Loss and grief can manifest in countless ways, including grief as a result of a death, chronic illness, cognitive impairment, dementia, brain injury, or stroke.

Grief will touch all of our lives in unique ways.

I am not a grief counselor, but having recently experienced the first major loss of my life, I can tell you what grieving was like for me. Writing a letter to my lost loved one was my way of sorting through my emotions and sending that letter to loved ones.

Immediately after, a social worker explained that my experience will be unique, and it will come in waves over time.

My tears were often met with sympathy, however there was also several reactions that made me think they didn't care as much, including “I don’t know what you’re going through,” or the granddaddy of all reactions to grief: silence.

When we mean the best, sometimes what comes out isn’t.

There is endless literature and entire professions dealing explicitly with grief, so for someone to not be the best at responding to your grief isn’t all that surprising.

First of all, it doesn’t matter if we all can’t relate to someone’s specific grief. With the joys of life, there are also sadnesses. We all grieve differently, but since we’re all human, we’ve probably all felt sadness at some point in our lives. That is relatable enough.

Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes is incredibly hard, but give it a shot. What would you want to hear, or not want to hear? Compassion and empathy are two of the most important ingredients to helping us heal.

Silence is truly the worst response. If you can’t think of anything to say, something as simple as “I’m so sorry for your loss” is so powerful, and effective. I wanted nothing more than food and hugs. Such simple acts like feeding myself were becoming much harder.

It’s so hard to be kind to yourself when you’re missing someone you loved with all of your heart.

As a friend, you can help fill those gaps with kindness and love.

I implore you to be the friend who people call first when they’ve experienced loss. I know that’s who I’d like to be.


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