What can friends do during the crisis stage to help grief sufferers accept and actualize their loss? Above all, friends should be there. People suffering grief need to know that they are not alone. As needs arise, friends can take care of them. Babysitting, phone calls, food, laundry, errands, transportation, and scores of the other details of living may be overlooked unless a friend steps in.
Friends also listen. While it is important to lend a hand, close friends also give an ear. A grieving person often wants to talk about death, but such talk may make others feel uncomfortable. Because of that, some people are tempted to change the subject to get the grief sufferer to “think about something else.” But there is nothing else to talk about that matters. A good listener gives the grief sufferer permission to express thoughts and feelings by asking, “Tell me how things are.” Or, “Would you like to talk about it?” Those who hurt often want to repeat what went on just before and after they heard the shocking news. That is healthy, for that is how people come to accept the reality of what has happened. Sometimes the details are related again and again, and it is a loving act to listen thoughtfully. Of course, a good friend also respects the need for silence and for privacy and will not force a conversation that is not wanted….
Unfortunately, although listening is essential in the crisis stage, we are tempted to talk too much and listen too little. When we are uncomfortable with grief we feel that we have to say something. Religious people struggle to say something Christian. “She is at home with the Lord.” “God must have loved him to take him so young.” “Jim is better off in heaven.” “He wouldn’t want to come back.” All of these platitudes may be true, but they seldom provide much comfort. After all, people grieve not for the loved one who has died but for themselves and the loss they have sustained. A brief, honest expression of how we feel, free of pious phrases, can be offered if a grieving person opens up, but generally our presence speaks more than our words.
Excerpt taking from Grief: Comfort for Those Who Grieve and Those Who Want to Help
©1996 by Haddon W. Robinson
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