Helping Grief-Stricken Friends, What to Do? What to Say?
When we think of grief and bereavement we think of death, but death is not the only thing people grieve. The ending of a relationship, loss of a job, or financial reverses can result in grief. When there is a death, it isn’t necessarily of a friend or family member; it could be a beloved pet or a respected public figure. And there is no set time-span for grief, people recover at their own rates.
Most people know that when someone is mourning, the words “It will be okay,” are the wrong words to offer. In What to Do? What to Say? There Has to Be Another Way: Maintain Your Friendships with Your Grieving Friends and Help Yourself Too, Joy Abrams suggests the right words to say, the right things to do, and the best ways to support a grieving friend, acquaintance, or relative.
The first section of What to Do? What to Say? comprises do’s and don’ts—things that are especially helpful and things that are not. Abrams offers a number of exercises for the bereaved, but it’s important to remember that before you try to offer this help you should find out if it’s wanted.
Before I became a grief counselor, I participated in a bereavement workshop. The one piece of advice that stands out from that experience was to remember to say, “Don’t should on me.” Say it to any- and everyone who tells you what you need to do to “get over” your grief. It would be nice if there was one-size-fits-all advice for the bereaved, but there isn’t. There are many ways people grieve; it is an individual process. When someone advises, “You should go out more,” or “You should get rid of…,” perhaps the best response is, “I should not listen to what I should or shouldn’t do.” Don’t should on me.
Abrams follows up advice to would-be helpers with yoga, meditation, and visualization techniques that could be helpful for anyone suffering stress. She also emphasizes the value of journaling and writing. What to Do? What to Say? is a slim volume containing solid advice. While Abrams has her own approach to some aspects of grief support, her methods are those employed by many reputable bereavement and mental health centers and counselors. When dealing with your own or another’s loss, consider What to Do? What to Say? as a good resource.