How to Help a Grieving Friend

So someone close to you has lost a loved one, and you feel that you owe it to them to try to make things ok. Unfortunately, the simplest answer is that you can’t. There’s no avoiding the sadness they’re feeling—and no matter how hard you try to distract them, they’re not going to feel like themselves for quite a while. However, there are a few things you can do to make day-to-day life a little easier for them, and to provide something to smile about in their shaken, upside-down world.

The greatest piece of advice I can give to you is just to keep being their friend. That may sound dumb, but it’s the only thing you can do. And it’s more difficult and complicated than you might expect.

The first thing you need to understand going into this is that everyone grieves differently, and you won’t be able to anticipate how your friend is handling everything. People can change in the days, weeks, or even years following the loss of a parent. They might grow more cynical, subdued, angry, or introverted. They might avoid contact with other people, stop opening up to you, and smile a lot less. The truth is that you can’t expect them to be exactly the same as they were before. They’re experiencing emotions they never thought they had, which is scary and confusing. While you may want them to go back to normal so you can return to having fun together, they don’t owe it to you to rush through their grief for your sake. Even if they wanted to, they couldn’t humanly pull it off. It’s a natural and slow-going process that everyone must experience in order to healthily deal with loss.

But don’t worry! You’ll get them back eventually. All it takes is patience and understanding. If you can stick with them through this, your friendship will grow even stronger when things settle down.

The hardest part is figuring out how to “keep being their friend” when you don’t know what it is they need from you. Some people are very open about their grief; they might want to talk about it a lot to get their feelings out. If you’re lucky, they might even explain to you what’s going on in their brain, to help you understand the psychology of grieving the loss of a parent. More often than not, however, teenagers especially turn inside themselves and try to avoid talking about it altogether.

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How to Listen

During such a hard life experience, reliable and trustworthy friends are one of the most important things a teen who has lost their parent will need. As a fundamental part of your friend’s support system, be sure that your friend knows that you will be there for them if they want to talk about how they feel, or even just about anything else. We all learned it in kindergarten: a good listener is attentive and kind; yet, this can be an attitude that is usually easier said than done, an attitude that can be hard to maintain over long periods of time.

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Stay Brave (What It’s like Having a Friend Who Lost A Parent)

I have started and restarted this brief paragraph, looking for the right words to express my experiences and thoughts. But now I realize that they were right in front of me. Having a friend who has gone through this struggle is like having a friend that has more depth, sensitivity and understanding than most people. They have been through a loss that is, in my opinion, one of the roughest someone could go through. They prevail however, and that is an immense act of strength. A friend who has lost a parent can be the ultimate comfort when you need support, as well as an amazing listener. Of course this is provided that you get around the tall walls he or she has built around him or her.

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That First Conversation

boy with question mark

Making conversation the first time you see your friend who has lost a parent can be really challenging if you overthink it. The important thing isn’t what you say, but to be there for that person, to be supportive. As people have told me, even adults have a hard time saying the right thing; don’t expect to get it perfect.

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Dealing with You First

sad boy

Supporting your friend immediately after the loss of their parent can be very difficult, especially when you have a personal connection with that parent. Before you go to see your friend, it is really important that you cope and are in a good place with yourself. This way, you will be able to be a good friend to them and help him or her through their own loss.

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