Many people truly want to help a friend or family member experiencing a loss. Words fail us at these times. The concept of ‘being with’ vs ‘doing for’ is something that can be challenging for people to understand. In the fix it society that we live in, many know grief and claim to know exactly how to tend to it in others.
While there is no one perfect way to respond, here are some ideas.
• Grief belongs to the griever. So much of the help and advice offered tells our friends they should be doing their grief work differently. Grief is a very personal experience. You may believe that you would have been doing things differently had it happened to you, but be mindful that this belongs to your friend and follow her lead.
• Stay present with her. It is always tempting to talk about what you think/hope will happen moving forward. Words such as the baby is in a better place, baby would have been sick, or you will have another baby is a generalized platitude and is not helpful. State the truth. This hurts. I am here with you. I wish it would be different.
• This is not about you. You may feel ignored and unappreciated. Please don’t take this personally, and for sure this is not something to talk about now.
• Anticipate. Don’t ask. Saying that you your friend should call if she needs something… she will not call. Not because she does not need anything, but because figuring it out takes too much energy. Instead make concrete offers.
• Educate and Advocate. Use your connection to be there for her. Grief never really stops; she can have better moments and worse moments. Let the people around her know this.
• Love. Above all, show up and show how much you love her. Say something. Be willing to stand there in her gaping hole without turning away. Be willing to hold her hand. Be willing to not have answers. Listen, listen listen. Be there. Be present. And be a friend.