Dealing with a Grieving Friend

In light of the cliché messages and perceived “methods” on dealing with friends when they are down, one word. Bullshit.

Cliché 1: Girls like to hear “It’s going to be alright. Everything is going to be okay.” and a shoulder to cry on, whereas, guys tend to give actual “solutions” because that’s just how they “function”.

Surprise, surprise. Girls don’t like to hear that and guys don’t actually give “solutions”.

In contrast, girls say things like:

  • “I know what you are going through/how you feel.” — You know nothing.
  • “This is Gods plan/This is a test.” — Again, you know nothing.
  • “You are strong.” — How long do you think this person was trying to be strong until s/he reached the breaking point? Again, you know nothing.
  • “What happened to you? You were totally a stronger/more resilient person.” — And once more, you know nothing.

Guys tend to:

  • “Well if it’s not working well for you, then to hell with it” — Usually meant in the “giving up” scheme.” If the fridge is not working, throw it away. If you are not happy with your husband, get a divorce. What happened to fixing?
  • “You need to start doing something. Have a plan.” — Who told you s/he isn’t doing something/having a plan? Thinking for him/herself, maybe? Some credit to the person, please?

Girls & Guys:

  • “Call me if you need anything.” — Yeah right. That’s an actual invitation to not call you.
  • “You have been grieving for so long. It’s now time to dust yourself off and just get over it/do it/(fill whatever you want to say)!” Some people think that you need to be toughened. Apparently you are so “weak” and that’s exactly what someone who is weak and vulnerable wants to hear. Some tough love.

Cliché 2: “Hey, I recommend you this “self-help” book. It will do wonders to you.” My favorite!

You can know what the whole book is trying to tell you reading only the first few pages, actually the first few sentences, maybe even the title? Plus, if they were really that “great”, people wouldn’t have been buying the 1st self-help book, the 2nd self-help book, the 3rd self-help book, the 4th, the 5th, and so on…

Cliché 3: Stay away from negative people. Choose your circle of friends carefully as “positive” because this will affect your “well-being”.

Breaking news! There is no such thing as a “positive” person. I mean, great, keep discarding your “friends” when they are down. They will truly know how true you are as a friend to them and I am sure you would have won their friendship and support for a lifetime. Because of course, you did the right thing by choosing to be surrounded only by “positive” people.

Okay so, if this is all baloney, what is it? How to deal with friends in grief?

It’s simpler (but harder) than you think.

Step number 1: Sit. Listen. Understand.


Try to help change perspective of current situations.

Step number 2: Acceptance:

Sometimes, it is perfectly OKAY to be sad. In fact, if you aren’t sad, something is wrong with you. Do not pressure your friend to be “happy” at times of stress, sadness or grief. Again, do not pressure your friend.

Example: You can’t expect someone who has lost someone/job/money/(whatever) to just “be happy”. It’s his/her right to be sad now. It’s normal. Accept your friend as being sad. Just accept it. It’s temporary.

Step number 3: Long term strategy

Assuming you have sat and actually listened to your friend, you would be able to together help shape a long-term strategy to deal with the issue at hand. Long-term strategy gives the griever something to look forward to that does not have to “immediately” happen opposing to the popular “Just get over it advice”.

Example: Someone hates his job but can’t afford to leave it. Long-term plan implying that it is doable and possible to have better situation will shift spirits.

  1. find the right enjoyable job
  2. find out what the required skills are
  3. strengthen those skills
  4. set a timeline
  5. leave the action plan to your friend

Remember you are not actually telling your friend what to do. You are helping to transform perspective that 1. change will happen (current situation is not permanent), 2. they can and 3. it is perfectly okay to take time (or not happen immediately). It might take a month, a year or even a 5-year plan, however, having a fruit to look forward to can do wonders.

Step number 4: Let them see what they have

The value of things is at the peak right before and after we have them. While we have them, sometimes we don’t value them as much and other times we don’t even see them. There are hidden benefits someone can be living that s/he can’t even see for him/herself. Assuming you have actually “listened” as mentioned above, you would be able to shed light on something they have. For the love of God, don’t ever say, “Have some gratitude for what you have”. This only drives people nuts and do not help.

Simple Example: I have hot water in my shower. I only had cold showers during my college years. I am sure most people take it for granted but that hot shower means so much to me.

Step number 5: Tell a joke.

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