There is a Swedish proverb which says ‘Friendship doubles our joy and halves our grief’…and truer words were never spoken. It is easy to have many around you when the sun is shining and all is well but it is the friend who is by your side in the dark hours and the rain who will be valued the most. You probably already understand the concept of friendship but to be of real value to your friend who is suffering great loss it helps to understand the concept of grief. It is through this understanding that you will best be able to help your friend. Having an idea what their needs might be over the coming days and months that will be a blessing to them and can make all the difference.
‘He that conceals his grief finds no cure for it’ so the best thing you can do for your friend is to be by their side as they attempt to deal with their grief. It is very important for you to let them take the lead through the process. But it is also important if they are reluctant to grieve that you help them understand that grieving is necessary.
No two people will deal with their grief in the same way but it must be dealt with. Our natural reaction – especially if we are ‘mature in age’, is to sweep it under the carpet as much as possible. Soldier on with head held high. Even if we’ve never had a stiff upper lip, we do now. Our culture is such that we tend not to display huge amounts, if any, of great emotion. As previously mentioned there is no wrong or right way to grieve but the emotions must be dealt with in a healthy way or there can be repercussions such as severe depression and other health issues down the road.
As a close friend you will probably be there throughout the journey. From the beginning stage when they first learn about their loss, you will be there. Nature is a wise guardian and initially our body goes into a state similar to shock. People will say that when they first heard the news they felt as if they had been hit by a bus or something similar. The blessing of that reaction is that it causes us to stop in our tracks and take on board the knowledge of what has happened. However if you have been through anything similar you will probably remember that you then automatically switch into what I call the ‘someone else’s life’ mode. Where it feels as if you’re watching a television programme or movie of what is going on, and you can see yourself and the situation unfolding but you’re not really part of it. This also is one of nature’s ways of helping through. This is the first stage where your quiet and reassuring presence is a blessing.
Then the full enormity of what has happened settles in. As people grieve in different timelines it could happen on the first day, it could happen in the first year. With some people the realization appears in stages. This is the part of grieving that carries the most pain. This is when your friend attempts to come to terms with the fact that something enormous has happened and nothing that they or anyone can do will ever reverse it. Death is one thing in our lives that we cannot change. We cannot improve it, we cannot alter it – it has happened and we just have to deal with it.
During this period of realization your friend will probably experience unutterably painful anguish. Sadness. Anger. Loneliness. A lack of interest in the world around them. In some cases they may no longer feel there is any reason for them to continue on. As a friend it is important that you keep an eye on them and if you see any signs that cause concern such as prolonged depression, insomnia, irrational behaviour, altered state of health, turning to various substances to numb the pain – then leads them to seek help.
Then the day will come, though it may not seem possible now, when your friend will need (though they might not want to) to start rebuilding their life. This is when you will be at your most valuable. Your quiet support as you hold their elbow and help guide them back towards the light will be valued and greatly appreciated.
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