This is so difficult. When people we care about are hurting we want to make it better for them so we often say things like; “ it will be fine”, “I know just how you feel,” “ You will get over this in no time.”
The best gift you can give this person is the gift of time. That may mean just sitting with them in silence, just being present. Don’t try to fill the silence with small talk or tell your story of grief and loss. This is their grief, their story, unlike anyone else’s.
This time of grief is an emotional roller coaster and your friend/family is going through uncharted waters. They need your love and patience as they go through this journey. Listen, acknowledge the loved one who has died, and refer to them by name. Acknowledge the need to be alone but also be available to help with the little things like making coffee, doing dishes and just being available and alert to things you can do. Often the grieving person can’t tell you what they need because they really don’t know. So being alert to simple day to day needs not being met and just helping, will be appreciated.
Several years ago, our 18-month-old godson passed away from a heart condition. His parents lived just down the street from us, and I was at a loss of how to help them. They had a little girl who had been older than their son and she was with grandma and grandpa much of the time during those early days. So, I started to walk down to their place once our children were off to school and I would start the coffee and check for phone messages and cards. I would write in a tablet who had called and sent cards/notes and food. Pretty soon my friend would get up from bed and come out and have coffee and we would just ‘be’ together. This was healing for me, as well. We loved that little one like one of our own. I remember the day that I came over and my friend was up and dressed and just appeared more peaceful. She told me about how the night before she had been sitting in their living room in the dark just praying for God to help her feel that their son was ok, at peace. Suddenly, a bird landed on their windowsill and looked in at her. It was completely dark outside. Rarely do you see birds flying around at that time of night, but this one just sat for the longest time looking at my friend. She felt that God was answering her prayer and that this bird was telling her that all was well, and she could know that her son was in God’s loving arms.
Being present with no judgment or recommendations will be your greatest gift of all. Thank you for being a friend.