Sometimes I think the word “grief” is counterproductive; everyone grieves so differently that it seems foolish to label it under one big umbrella. Because of this, it can sometimes be difficult to comfort someone who is going through it due to a discrepancy in the way you both experience it. For some people, it helps to wallow in their sadness and truly feel the loss; for others, that can be detrimental and almost as damaging as the incident itself. Comforting a grieving friend can feel like an emotional game of Russian roulette, waiting until you hit the metaphorical bullet. There are a few things you can do, though, that are almost universally beneficial to someone who is going through a hard time, whether it’s grieving from the loss of a prized job to the death of a loved one.
Validate Their Feelings
Sometimes, there’s isn’t a lot you can do to make the situation better, so the next best action to take is to assure your friend that their feelings are right and justified. Often, we’re sold the narrative that grieving should take place in a certain window and then it should be over, and if you spend any longer on it, it’s unhealthy. By telling your friend that they can feel however they want for as long as they want, you’re taking the pressure off them and allowing them to cycle through their emotions naturally.
Don’t Always Offer A Solution
This may seem counterproductive, but hear me out. More usually than not, when grieving people confide in you, they want someone who will listen and be sympathetic, not run around looking for answers that may or may not be there. The act of opening up itself it cathartic, and taking the time to quietly express oneself is incredibly therapeutic. Don’t jump the gun and make someone feel uncomfortable from overzealous good intentions.
Recognize That They May Not Be Themselves
When we’re upset, we can sometimes say harsh things that we don’t mean and take out our anger on others who are close to us. When someone does this to you, don’t make it about yourself and scold them–recognize that they’re not at their best and judging them will only make it worse. If you really think they were out of line, wait at least twenty four hours before bringing it up.
Remember That Grief Wears Many Different Faces
Just because someone isn’t crying their eyes out all the time doesn’t mean they’re not in pain. Be as kind and patient as possible–one day, they’ll return the favor.