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  • Hannah Williamson

Helping a grieving friend.....from someone who has faced grief

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

Just over 18 months ago my Dad, very suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. Grief was something I had heard about a great deal but never truly understood until this time. The whole experience gave me a new appreciation for the people around me who supported and cared for me throughout this time. Below are a few things that I learnt I needed or didn't need when it came to friends helping me during my grief. I pray it will help you to be there for others as they face these difficulties in life.

People often don't know what to do when people face grief! They panic and often wrongly assume that the person wants to be alone and not be bothered. How far from the truth I found that to be! I am by nature an introvert and did wonder if I would find 'lots of people' too overwhelming. Now, don't get me wrong, at times it was, but what I needed most, surprisingly was people around me. People who wouldn't try to give me answers, but would just sit with me. People who would text me saying they cared and were there. It sometimes feels safer to avoid someone in pain and a little less awkward, but they need you! Don't avoid them!

'Don't say cliches.' I‘ll be honest, this is one of the most annoying things ever!! I feel for people, because understandably they don't know what to say. But often people say strange things when they don't know what to say. Things like 'Don't worry, he's in a better place.' Firstly, 'Don't worry????' , that's a ridiculous thing to say. And secondly, of course I know about heaven but in my pain trying to brush of what has happened is not helpful and adds to the pain. What people need is to know you care, that you are there and that you love them! What blessed me most was when people said to me 'I have no idea what to say Hannah, but I'm here if you need me or want to talk.' That was one of the most thoughtful things to say!

One of the things I found during facing grief was that I received hundreds of texts. My phone did not stop. My family received hundreds of cards and a crazy amount of flowers. I wanted to thank everyone and say something meaningful but my mind was too fuzzy. A friend who had recently lost her Dad sent me a most helpful text saying 'I know this sounds funny, but if you are overwhelmed by the texts, just send back a heart.' It was such great advice. It meant I could still connect with people but the pressure was off to respond with words. I have since remembered this when others have lost people. I have text even if I have not got a response. It's highly likely the text has been seen and blessed someone even if they cannot bring themselves to respond.

Phonecalls and texts and cards are needed and so precious in the difficult times, but one thing I really appreciated was the people that physically came to see us. We were blessed to have people from all around the world come to just look after us. One particular lady stands out in my mind. She knocked on the door of our house, when we answered she walked in hugged each one of us and then, because she didn't want to intrude, she left. It was one of the most precious things anyone has ever done for me. I will always be grateful. You don't have to stay for hours but just being there is so meaningful for someone in their pain.

This point may seem similar to my first point, but in this I am actually talking about not staying away after the initial shock has worn off. Those first few weeks after losing my Dad, I was in such great shock. It was after this, even months down the line when the pain and reality really does begin to sink in. It is then that you really need people. A psychiatrist friend told me you need people you can 'be ugly with.' People who can cope with seeing raw emotion and won't run from you when this is shown! If you're trying to be a good friend to someone who is grieving, set yourself a weekly or monthly reminder to contact them and find out how they are. Don't be afraid to ask the 'tough' question of 'how are you feeling about losing dad now?'

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