When a friend loses a loved one, they feel and go through many different emotions and feelings. As a friend, you try and be there for them and show them unconditional support and love, although this is not always easy or a comfortable situation for the two of you. At some points in time you may feel as if your friend is very distant and withdrawn from their typical life that you feel is normal for them. The most important thing you can do at this point is to let them know you support them and you are here for them.
The Grieving Process
By familiarizing yourself with the stages of grief, you can better understand how to support a friend through these times of them experiencing a great deal of pain and coping with their own process of grieving. Here are the stages of grieving according to the American Cancer Society:
Shock, disbelief or numbness – For the first little while, there is a lot of other things going on around your friend that may be keeping them distracted for the time being. They are surrounded by family and friends who are planning a celebration of life and preparing themselves for this day of the last goodbye to their loved one. This can cause a sense of numbness, almost like a state of auto-pilot. They are doing everything they need to do to make sure this is an honorable day for someone who was dear to their heart.
At this stage of the grieving process, it is important that you allow your friend to have the space they need in a respectable manner. A friendly voice is always better than an email or a text message. Pick up the phone or go see them in person, to express your condolences and voice that you are here for them through this time.
Confrontation with the loss – A little while after the service has come to an end and they have had time to be alone they really allow themselves to understand what is going on. As they come to terms with the death of their loved one, they will begin to feel intense emotion such as depression, anger, guilt, or even withdrawing socially.
This is the stage of the grieving process in which you friend needs you the most, regardless of how much they push you away. Because they are feeling all these emotions and hurting inside, they may feel as if they need to be alone and grieve. This is OK and this may be what they need to cope, although it is important to check up on your friend. Try bringing a home cooked meal over or watching a movie to get their mind off of the pain for a while. It will not heal them entirely but every little bit helps.
Acceptance of loss – There will come a point in time when your friend accepts the loss of their loved one and begins to move forward with their life in a healthy and “normal” way. Your friend has managed to find ways to cope and deal with the changes they are experiencing.
At this stage, it is important to look out for signs of depression from the loss. If you notice they have not reached this stage after a year, it is best to help them utilize the resources available to them for healing such as support groups or therapy.
If you have any other questions on this topic or would like to speak to our professionals here at Keyser Funeral and Cremation Service, you can contact Luke or Eric here.