Can I help a friend who is grieving?

by Rod Smith

“Can I help a friend who is grieving the loss of a child or the loss of a spouse?” writes the succinct reader.

I will try to be equally succinct in my reply. Yes.

There are things you can do to help. You can be present, around, on the outskirts. You can be like a very skilled butler, one who is helping and serving and taking care of practical needs and errands and housekeeping matters. You can say very little and listen very much and observe with your kind and patient eyes. These are things you can do. But, you will only be really good at these things if you have taken care of grieving your own losses. The minute your own losses hit you when you are trying to help your friend you will find yourself going into overdrive, into almost ceaseless activity, in the belief you are being helpful.

No. There is nothing you can do. Grief is a private, personal passage. It’s unique to the individual. It is shaped by a specific loss. It’s a road taken alone to an unknown destination in the hopes that a palatable one will unfold and be slowly recognized as it comes into view.

Be there. Do nothing. You will be amazed at how much you can love someone and support someone by being around and doing absolutely nothing.

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