Death sucks. It’s numbing, painful, and often there’s no way you can ever be prepared for it. And what’s worse, it becomes more a part of your life as an adult. Plus it’s tricky to deal with when a friend is affected. What do you do? What do you say? Should you go and pay them a visit as soon as you hear the news? Or would a call suffice? You may feel like you’re intruding, but your friend will appreciate your care, comfort and support as he or she grieves.
Everyone deals with grief differently, but we hope these tips are general enough to help you to be there for a grieving friend:
- Listen. Silence is ok – If your grieving friend wants to sit in silence when you pay them or visit, or be silent when you call them, just follow their lead and be silent. If they want to talk about their dead loved one, or how their loved one passed, just listen and be supportive, it is probably their way of coming to terms with their grief.
- Don’t worry too much about what to say – Now this is a weird one. Instinctively you may try to avoid the subject of death, or even try not to say that the deceased is “dead” or “has passed” because then it would all seem so final, wouldn’t it? It’s normal to worry about what to say, but remember that the most important thing is to listen. Most of all, your friend wants you to acknowledge his or her loss and to feel that there is space to share their feelings (don’t tell them how they’re supposed to act and feel). So offer your condolences sincerely and then follow your friend’s conversation leads.
- Offer practical assistance – Funerals in Ghana, like all other life events, are expensive and time-consuming feats to plan and execute. Don’t just say some variation of “let me know if there is anything I can do” and expect your friend to reach out to you because they probably won’t. Instead, offer something tangible. Offer to buy your friend some mobile phone credit as they make calls to family members, funeral poster designers, and caterers. Ask them if you can buy some bottled or sachet water to keep the long line of guests trooping in and out of their house hydrated. Offer to run errands on the day of the funeral service. This will help take the burden of mundane tasks off their mind as they mourn.
- Attend the funeral or memorial service – Unless it’s a private service, show up in the appropriate colored clothing and show love and support to your grieving friend and his or her family. If you can’t make it to the services, find out when you can visit your friend. Don’t forget to listen!
If your grieving friend wants to sit in silence when you pay them or visit, or be silent when you call them, just follow their lead and be silent.
- Don’t disappear – After the funeral is over, the crowd of people surrounding your friend and their family will start to thin very quickly. Most people will forget to follow up and to offer support. Try not to be most people and continue to be there by staying in touch (calling, texting, video chatting) or even visiting. Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays be especially difficult for your bereaved friend as they might bring back their feelings of grief. Let your friend know that you are there for them at these times as well. You don’t have to spend a lot of energy following up, or keep reminding your grieving friend about the death, just check in to say hello.
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