When you meet someone who has just suffered a death or loss, what do you say? You realize there is nothing you can say to make it better, but you want to reach out. You think back to a time when you lost someone, but that isn’t much help. You feel awkward and worry you will say the wrong thing, and upset them even more. Maybe you try to stay away because you don’t know what to say or do.
No matter what the loss is, whether it is a breakup, a divorce or a sudden death, the loss of an important relationship is usually very painful, and brings up deep emotions. So what can a friend do? Here are eight tips from my years as a counsellor.
- Take the time to listen: To listen to someone especially when they are upset is a wonderful gift. Encourage the person to tell you the story or the latest instalment of it, and just allow them space to talk.
- Take your mind off your own stresses and worries, so you can focus and listen. If you have had a stressful day, you may need to take some time to destress first before you have the space to listen to someone else’s upset.
- Listening well doesn’t mean you have to offer solutions, answers or advice: Just listening will give your friend a lot of relief, and help them figure things out.
- To listen doesn’t mean you have to agree: Try to keep your private opinions to yourself and just listen. It’s more important to show you hear and understand their feelings.
- Avoid telling stories of your own losses. It can be tempting to talk about your own memories of breakups etc, but this can take the attention away from your friend. Give them sympathy, not company.
- Allow tears: Remember, tears are a natural and healing mechanism and the person will feel better afterwards. So try to relax when someone is crying and allow them space to cry, without panicking or trying to stop them.
- Loss often triggers other memories of losses: Sometimes one loss brings back memories of other losses that have not been grieved. And don’t be surprised if listening to your friend’s loss triggers your own losses and sadness. You may need to talk with a good friend or a counsellor to put these to rest.
- Take care of yourself by setting time limits. It is OK to set limits to the amount of time you spend listening to others. You are not a counsellor and its OK to take care of you.
If you are struggling with a recent loss, or missing someone you lost a long time ago, scheduling some counselling sessions can help you feel more at peace. Why not give Grace a call and take advantage of her 15 minute complimentary phone consultation. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org