When a close friend has lost a loved one it can be incredibly difficult to know what to say or do to comfort them. Many times when we feel we cannot find the right words, we end up saying nothing, or worse, avoiding the person altogether. But what you must know, first and foremost, is that you don’t need to have the perfect words in order to be an emotional support for your friend who is grieving- simply being there is enough. One thing that tends to fall by the wayside when a person is grieving is their own self-care. We know how important self-care is for self-renewal and for our overall wellness. With a friend who is grieving, one of the best things you can do is to help them prioritize their self-care. We’re not talking spa days and bubble baths here, either. This is the kind of practical self-care that directly contributes to their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Here are our top 4 tips for supporting self-care for the bereaved.
When Your Friend is Grieving:
1- Help Them Find a Release
Grief is a complicated emotion that takes time to process. You can be a support to your grieving friend by helping them find an outlet to release some of these emotions. Take the time to remember the person who has passed away with shared memories, both happy and sad. Go through old photos together and let the pictures serve as inspiration for the memories to come up. Encourage them to try writing down memories or to start a journal. Let your friend take the lead here and just help them to process their emotions. There is nothing specific you need to say, simply slowing down to acknowledge and remember the person who has passed away is a meaningful moment for your friend.
2- Nourish Them Taking the time to cook healthy meals sometimes isn’t a priority on a grieving persons to-do list. They might find themselves without an appetite or that food just isn’t as satisfying as they once found it. Regardless of the reason, we know that good nutrition is essential for our bodies to function optimally and it's important for them to still get three healthful meals each day. There are a number of ways you can support self-care through good nutrition. You can make a plan to take your friend out for lunch or dinner, choosing a restaurant with healthy meal options or bring food over a few times a week. You might simply take a trip to the grocery store and stock their fridge with healthy options. Think about easy to reach for options like pre-cut veggies and hummus, celery and peanut butter, fruits and yogurt for smoothies, etc. You can find a local meal delivery service that provides meals that are prepped and ready to go. Whatever it is that works best for your friend to make sure that they are eating well and maintaining their own wellbeing through their time of grief.
3- Exercise with Them
The benefits of exercise are many and varied, for both physical as well as mental health. Physical activity sometimes gets tossed aside when a person is grieving, but it can be one of the best things a person can do to take their mind off the grief and turn their focus elsewhere. Exercise is a mood-booster and a stress-reliever. In addition to this, daily physical activity can foster good sleep hygiene, and sleep issues are common for those dealing with grief. Make a plan with your friend to go to a workout class together, hit the gym, do some yoga, or go for a run or walk. You don’t even need to talk during these workout sessions, just be their accountability buddy and help get them moving.
4- Call Them
I know, this one sounds almost too simple. But seriously, call your friend and check up on them! If you are unable to meet in person a phone call or a video call is easy to do. Let them dictate the flow of the conversation. They might want to vent, talk about their day, share memories, or they might just want to be quiet and let you do the talking. There is no wrong way to call and check up on a friend who is grieving, what’s important is that your friend knows they can lean on you in their time of need.
Everyone grieves in their own way, and as a friend it is up to you to take your cues from the grieving person. But on the whole, it is important to make sure your friend continues to care for themselves while they are grieving. You can step up in order to help your friend prioritize their
own self-care through a bit of emotional release, energizing exercise, time spent outdoors, treating them to or cooking them nourishing, healthful meals, and by simply being with them.