The tragic death of a teenager who was hit by a city-bound express has prompted questions of how anyone can help a grieving family.
Death finds most of us totally unprepared to deal with it. We go around pretending to ourselves that we are somehow immortal, and we live as though not thinking about sorrow and death will make it go away. Then tragedy strikes someone we know, and we don’t know what we can do to help.
Three ways to help right now
It’s awful having to face someone who has just suffered a sudden loss. We rack our brains trying to think what to say. But we easily forget that a newly bereaved person just wants to talk. Let them talk. What the bereaved person needs most is someone who will listen.
Let them feel what they’re feeling
Don’t tell your friend to be “brave” and “hush, don’t cry”. Don’t push anyone who is in grief away from their feelings, let them express their feelings of anger and rage and wild grief. Our own natural reaction is to feel discomfort when see and hear such grief, so we want them to stop because we can’t deal with our own feelings. Never tell grieving people not to grieve. They must grieve. Never tell them not be angry, they must be angry. Never tell them to choke back their tears, they must cry.
Give practical help
How can you do this ? Just ask. “What can I get for you ? Is there anything you want me to do ?”. If you have some difficulty identifying your friend’s needs ask yourself what you would need in such circumstances.
Start with something really simple, like food. A sudden tragedy will bring relatives and other friends to the house, ensure there is enough coffee etc to serve the influx of visitors. Buy some food and put it in the frig.
There are simple household tasks like washing the dishes. Your friend may need help in answering the phone and the front door. Sometimes the need is obvious and apparent, like making a meal. A grieving person has been hit with a severe blow and has no energy for practical tasks.
Let a friend in grief lean on you for whatever you can reasonably supply at this terrible time.