When someone you know loses a loved one, it’s difficult to know what to say. Do we risk saying too much and upsetting them, or saying too little and isolating them? It’s a tricky tight rope but the key is being there. We can’t tell you what to say to help because there are no magic words. Honestly, it is better to be the friend who said the wrong thing, not the friend who said nothing at all.
1. Don’t let it become taboo.
Friendships can be tattered by that unspoken support, the repressed elephant cowering in the corner of the room. Relieve the tension, be part of your friend’s life, and you’ll both feel closer no matter how it goes.
2. If you can’t come up with the right words, make a kind gesture.
Some people aren’t the best at communication and can’t quite wrap their head around the verbalising of emotions. So why not fix the broken window for them, clean their house while they’re away planning the funeral, or simply just show up for a coffee as often as you can? The little things go a long way when our friends are suffering.
3. Be cool.
Everyone else is acting weird so be the reliable friend, be normal. Your friend has been through a lot and could do with some normalcy and a return to routine. So be yourself and remind them that life hasn’t completely changed, because you haven’t.
4. When in doubt, hug.
Human contact can do wonders. So offer that tight hug and show that you are there and feeling deep empathy for your friend in their loss. Because sometimes it’s as simple as that.
5. Don’t panic.
Because there is no right thing to say. There’s no sentence you can use to fix everything, to make things easy, to make your friend all better and happy. It’s a rocky road and there’s nothing you can do to take the pain away. So the pressure’s off and don’t be worried if something you say triggers emotions. It’s part of the process.
6. Surround them with their favorite things.
Flowers, chocolates, a good movie, whatever the order of the day, make sure you remind them that they are known and loved and very much alive.
7. Be a breath of fresh air.
Teach your friend the new karate moves you’ve learned, tell them about your busy day, or just talk about your pets. Don’t be too ecstatic but keep their brain occupied with new things.
8. Keep them active.
Encourage your friend to come for a run, to go for a cycle, to beat you at the gym circuit. The blood has to keep pumping so those endorphins can multiply and save the day.
9. Talk about HeWhoMustNotBeNamed.
And no, I’m not talking about Voldemort. It’s easy to assume that the widow will break down at the mention of her husband’s name, that the orphan will flinch at the mention of parents, that any reference to the departed could remind your suffering friend of the loss and awake new realms of pain. But your friend already thinks about said lost partner, parent, sibling, all day. It’s not a post-it note that gets forgotten, it’s a constant shadow, so talking about it is therapeutic and calming.
10. Don’t flinch.
It’s easily done. Doling out emotional support and sentimental cliches is a tiring and difficult business and our natural reflex is often to change the subject and run away from hard conversations. Don’t flinch – your friend is bound to try and bury their head in the sand or run away from what has happened and it’s up to you to help them break this trend – rather than giving in to it.
Feature photo credit: Ed Gregory
Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com