I was recently told, “You’re the strong friend. People don’t know what to say to you because you’re normally the one helping people through tough situations. Not the other way around.”
The day my father died, I was no longer the strong person in any of my relationships. I was no longer the light-hearted person. I was no longer the friend who listened to all your problems and offered solutions.
I became a different person.
And it put an imbalance in a lot of my relationships because death changes you on every level imaginable. It strips you of your normal and it leaves you vulnerable, bare, and very raw with all the turbulence of grief.
If you’re here because you’re seeking advice on how to console a friend you normally never have to be there for, then here are some bits of advice on how to help from the strong friend who is grieving the loss of her father.
- Actions speak louder than words ever will. It really doesn’t have to be a big and grand gesture. A card in the mail. A text message/phone call. Send flowers. Those little things made a huge difference for me when I was grieving because it spoke more than, “I’m sorry.”
- Don’t distance yourself. Grief is very hard and uncomfortable for everyone. Seeing your strong friend go through it is probably heart wrenching and even scary because they are struggling with it, but don’t pull back thinking it’s a way to give them space and time to grieve in privacy. They need you present and there to get through it.
- Offer help if you can. The days and weeks after a death are filled with the onset of fresh grief. There are a lot of decisions to be made and things to be done, so offering to even pick up a meal makes a big difference. You’ll also see the onset of “secondary grief” where the surviving spouse and adult children start to tackle the difficult task of handling all the finances and paperwork. Sometimes, we forget to make basic everyday decisions for ourselves during these first few weeks — like cooking a meal, or even pulling out laundry from the washer. Stepping in there can and does make a big difference.
- Understand that normal is gone. A few days after my dad died, I looked in the mirror and I didn’t recognize myself. My dad’s death changed me on every level you can imagine. My identity is now altered by the loss of a parent — even as an adult child. Normal is gone and…