Claire Hoffman presents her Coping With Grief Series Part 7.
GRIEF AND BEREAVEMENT

Coping With Grief Part 7: How to Comfort a Friend After a Death

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  • Claire Hoffman
  • Writer, Bare
  • August 14, 2020
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My name is Claire and I’m a Customer Experience Manager at Bare Cremation.

Two years ago, my husband was suddenly and traumatically taken from me. This ever-present fixture in my life was suddenly gone. After going through grief myself, I wanted to share my story. So I’ve put together this eight-part series about coping with loss and bereavement based on my personal experiences with grief.

As a society, we’re not great at dealing with death and grief. At Bare, we want to change this. In this third article in the series, I talk about being on the other side of grief and how to be a good friend.

Death and grief tend to make us feel really uncomfortable. When a friend or someone we know suffers a loss, we may not want to be around them. We may become so worried about saying the wrong thing or making things worse that we retreat and leave the person alone in their grief.

We might even just not want to or be able to deal with the pain they’re experiencing. I know of one person who lost their sister and father in rapid succession and experienced the awful moment of people crossing the street in town to avoid having to interact with them. But it’s important to support them through this extremely difficult time.

5 ways to support a friend after a death

1. Stay connected

Let the person know that you’re thinking of them. If it’s someone you know less well, or you’re unable to support them in a hands-on way, try to text them regularly. Make it clear that you don’t expect a response, but just want them to know that you’re thinking of them.

You can also send an email or give the person a call. Maybe you’ll send them letters outlining happy memories you shared with the person they’re missing? Maybe you’ll send them links to videos you think they’ll like?

2. Ask questions

Ask the person what they need – they may not be able to articulate it, but asking is important.

Offer, offer, offer. But don’t be put off by them saying no. Keep offering in an attuned way, of course. For example, say something like: “I’m going to be at the supermarket near your place tomorrow. All good if I drop in some groceries? What do you need?”

It’s a huge commitment to truly be there for a grieving friend. I believe that the biggest thing a person needs when they’re bereft is some kind of stability in their lives. If that’s you showing up every week to take the garbage out, bringing over some cooked goods or just coming to sit with them, then you’re offering an incredible act of kindness.

Supporting a friend after a death.
It’s important to support a friend who’s grieving after a death, as difficult it may feel for you.

3. Provide practical help

If this person is someone you’re very close to, it might be useful to drop in and do housework or cook meals for them – that sort of thing. Follow your instinct and be ready to step away if it’s too much for them.

It’s important to note here though that after someone has just died, don’t go in and do the laundry. You’ll find the surviving members of the family might still need to have the just-worn clothes of their deceased loved one around.

4. Consider your timing

Keep in mind that there’ll often be an influx of messages and support when the death is still recent. During this period, other people tend to be processing the loss, too. However, they’ll generally be able to integrate their grief far more quickly than those more immediately affected by the loss.

The people who are grieving may, therefore, experience an overwhelming influx of support immediately after the loss, followed by very little support – even though they may be feeling just as distressed and struggling just as much. Keeping in touch in the weeks and months following a loss is important.

5. Be real

Sometimes just being able to sit down with your friend, put your arm around them and say “What a bloody awful thing,” or “I don’t know what to say. I’m so sorry.”

People experiencing grief often crave authenticity. They want to know that the people around them are feeling real things – are struggling, are thinking of the person who has died.

The person who’s experienced the loss is still the same person – even if they’ve gone through something unimaginable. You know them. Follow your gut. Hug them close, clap them on the back, tell them that you’re sorry. Watch the football with them. Ask for their help and their advice. The worst thing you can do is nothing.

So, in this eight-part Coping With Grief series, I’m going to share with you what I learnt about having healthy conversations – with yourself, your friends, your kids. I share some advice for those on the other side of grief on how you can be a good friend, a good partner and a good human.

You can read my other articles in the series including 5 Biggest Grief Myths Busted and The Day My World Changed Forever. Look out for the other articles in the series coming soon. We’ve also compiled a list of useful bereavement, grief counselling and other support services across Australia here.

All information provided is general in nature. For additional information relating to advance care planning, please speak to your health professional for advice about your specific circumstances. If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, call 000. For Lifeline’s Crisis Counselling service call 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636.

Want to see what our cremation service will cost in your area?To get a free quote, visit the Bare Cremation website or call 1800 071 176.

About Bare Cremation

Bare Cremation is Australia’s best direct cremation service. Our mission is to ensure every Australian has the option of an affordable, seamless and stress-free funeral service that can be arranged online or over the phone in minutes, at a fraction of the price of traditional funeral homes. We’ve cut out the need to go to a funeral home and made a complicated process simple by offering an affordable, transparent and easy alternative. Find out more by visiting the Bare Cremation website.

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