I have a friend who recently lost his sister. She was a relatively young woman and her passing was a shock to everyone. They were very close, and her death has hit him especially hard. I knew her quite well and am experiencing my own sorrow around her passing. My friend just lost his wife a couple of years ago. I don’t want to drag him down, but my buddy needs me. I want to be supportive, but I don’t know what to say or do for him. How do I help?
Oh boy, death can certainly rip the ground right out from underneath you. The loss of someone you care deeply about can be profound. I sought out “expert” opinions for dealing with grief and loss.
A hospice pioneer, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote about the 5 stages of grief. She explains that denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with what we lost. These tools help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order. Just knowing the stages of grief makes you feel better, right? Not!!! What matters most is being there for your friend as he navigates life through this loss.
Candyce Ossefort-Russell provide some of the best advice I’ve seen on the topic of helping people dealing with grief and loss. She says, bereavement, terminal illness, unspeakable violence, mental illness — are only a handful of irrevocable life events that can yield indescribable suffering and grief in normal, everyday lives. There is simply no “making it better” when someone has sustained these kinds of life traumas.
She says allowing your own heart to crack open and then bearing to stand next to your suffering friend with that raw and open heart —bearing witness to the knowledge that the pain must be borne and that nothing will fix it — is the deepest act of love there is. When you can bear to know at least a fraction of the enormity of your friend’s anguish and still remain present with him, you’ll begin to see that there is nothing to be done. With humbleness, you can empathically resonate with the inconsolable nature of the pain and sit caringly in its midst.
So, bottom line. There is nothing you can do to help your friend other than to be there. Hold his hand and let him go through this difficult process.
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