Consoling a Grieving Friend
Sometimes when people in our lives are going through a tough time, it can be hard to know what to say. Should we even say anything? Would distracting them be better? While any attempt made to show condolences should never be looked down on, I've found that there have been certain responses that were like a salve to the wound, while others just made me want to cry a little more. This makes me think of the scene in Pride and Prejudice when Mr. Collins attempts to "console" his cousins, and does so very poorly. So, here are a few ways to respond to a grieving friend that I have found to be true for me.
1) After the initial shock, I will want to talk about it.
As a friend, you might think that completely avoiding the topic is what the grieving person wants to do, but I have found that I need an outlet for my grief. If my friends and family aren't willing to talk through the tough things with me, who is going to? Don't be afraid of a few tears. Grief is accompanied by about a million swirling thoughts, and often what can be most comforting is an inviting question, such as, "How are you handling it?" It's best to face the elephant in the room, offer a listening ear, and help them process it.
2) I don't really want a lot of advice.
While misery loves company, it is generally the listener that the griever most desires in their presence, not the "preacher". Platitudes are fine, however somewhat unnecessary, but advice and opinions about the situation really don't help things. When something bad happens, people don't want to be preached at, but they do need to know they are loved and supported. Sometimes the best thing you can say is a simple, "I'm so sorry."
3) I want you to mourn with me.
Sometimes it may seem like the best thing to tell the grieving person that "these things happen", and they aren't "uncommon". Let me warn you, before you say those things to another grieving person, that it can be hurtful to imply that their situation is not special. We all know that we aren't the only ones suffering, and we know that it could always be worse, but don't let that keep you from mourning with your friend over what is a very real and uncommon hurt to them. If you make me feel like what I'm going through is a legitimate hurt, you'll be doing me a great favor. I always appreciate when I'm allowed to wallow in the pain a bit, rather than being told to pick up my boot straps and get over it already.
4) Eventually, I need you to laugh with me.
If there's one thing that helps heal the soul, it's laughter. Sure, give me a minute to cry on your shoulder, but then aid me further by helping me let loose and laugh a little. Then, maybe I can begin to look at the future with hope again.
Everyone needs to feel like their pain is being noticed and cared for. We can't stop bad things from happening to those we love, but we can attempt to console better when they do happen.