"Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope."
~Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
Grief is something we will all go through in different capacities and at various points in life. We can’t know when grief may happen, or even how we will experience it. But one thing is certain: we will need the support of those around us to get through it.
The grieving process can feel flu-like, accompanied by a sluggish sensation, similar to depression. Because grief is such a personal experience, those around us may feel uncertain about their role, or how to offer support. We may also feel uncomfortable asking for help, just like when we’re sick or feeling depressed.
However, the best way to move through the tired, mud-like state of grief is to discuss our feelings with those closest to us. Similarly, if a friend or loved one is experiencing grief, it’s good to know how to help, especially when the friend is reaching out for support.
I recently experienced a very painful loss in my life, and I only found true peace and healing with the help of those around me. Because of my friends, I learned how I want to show up for my loved ones who experience the tedious grieving process in the future. Below are some ways that my friends showed up for me after my recent loss.
1. Don’t wait for your friend to reach out
If your friend has suffered a loss, reach out to them. Depending on your relationship, a text may feel the most appropriate, but a phone call is always a warm and kind way to offer support. If the friend is not ready to discuss their pain yet, that’s okay. They will let you know if and when they’re ready to talk.
Try not to hesitate in reaching out in some capacity, as a gesture of support. The sooner a person feels they have support, the sooner they can feel like they are not alone as they navigate grief and move towards healing.
2. Ask questions
Again, grief is such a personal and difficult experience that, as a friend or loved one, it may be hard to know what to say. Simply asking questions is a wonderful way to open the door for a friend. Create a safe space for them to discuss what they are going through.
Start with questions like:
How are you caring for yourself during this time?
What can I do to help?
Who else have you been able to talk to?
How are others that are grieving from this doing?
These questions invite closeness and a sense that it is okay to talk about the many layers.
3. Show up in person and listen
Be with your friend or loved one as a shoulder to cry on and as a warm body to hold. Sit with your friend, make a mug of tea, and let them share all of their feelings—the sadness and deepest experiences within their grief state.
This presence and intimacy with a friend going through grief can greatly help their heart to heal. To be heard and openly share the thoughts swarming around during the various stages of grief is so necessary for healing. In these moments of closeness, there may even be an opportunity for joy and laughter amidst heaviness.
4. Offer to have check-ins
It may be hard to physically be with a friend going through grief, especially if you have a long-distance friendship. Schedule phone check-ins to continue helping your friend discuss what they are going through.
When I was grieving a loss, one of my best friends offered to check in, to see how I was doing. It was so incredibly healing to not only feel like I had someone I could talk to, but it also helped me feel less alone in the grieving process. The more check-ins we had, the better I felt. It truly helped in my healing.
Whether you or your loved one is experiencing grief, know that we don’t have to be alone in the confusing and often painful journey that is grief. Find ways to comfort others and take for yourself so that you can experience the layers of grief. Allow for the layers to unfold and the sadness to take its course. Find a support group and ask for help when you need it most. For those of us grieving, remember this: our friends want to be there to help guide us in our darkest times.
Do you have other practices for helping loved ones who are grieving? Share in the comments below!
Courtney Jay Higgins is the Associate Editor at The Good Trade. She is also a Yoga Instructor, vegetarian, wellness and fashion enthusiast. Originally from Colorado, her soul found California when she came to get her degree in Visual Communications at the Fashion Institute Of Design & Merchandising. She has a background in telling a story through writing, creative direction and content creation. Check out her blog and Instagram for her unique perspective on the mergence of fashion and spirituality.