Long-term ways to help someone in grief

Everybody grieves differently, and everyone takes a different amount of time to do it. One thing is certain though... the length and intensity of the grief that person will feel will be directly proportional to the length and intensity of the relationship. Your friend will eventually show signs that he's OK (keep in mind that when I say "he", I mean "he or she"), and that he seems ready to move on. Don't be fooled though. Having your friend over and seeing him laugh and joke around will definitely be encouraging, but sooner or later, he's going to be alone and the grief will come back. It's hard to grieve all day long. The mind needs to take a break every now and then. So we push the grief aside and try to enjoy ourselves. It's still there, but it's safely tucked away so we can work, be with friends, or enjoy ourselves a little. It won't be denied though and will definitely come back. Even now, I've had a lovely evening with my friend, but feel the grief slipping back in place now that he's gone.

Your friend is going to need your support for at least the next year. The following years may not be easy on him, but that first year following the death will be very hard and painful! Every holiday and event that comes up for one year after the death will be the first time he has to face it alone without his partner. Keep that in mind, and let me list a few things that you should be aware of.

Valentines Day. It's very hard to lose someone and go through a holiday who's sole purpose is to show your partner how much you love them. At the least, call your friend when you have time to chat for a bit in case he needs to talk. Maybe see if he wants to have you over or not.
Birthdays. Both his birthday and the birthday of the one he lost. It's hard for him on both days. On his loved one's birthday, he's going to be thinking of things like "He/she would be xx years old today" and it's going to hurt a lot. On his birthday, he won't be getting that special gift from his loved one, and he's going to feel alone no matter how many people are around him. Make it a point to try to be there for him. If you can't be there, see if some other friend he has who's close could.
Anniversaries. Both the anniversary of when they met, and when they got married. Depending on their relationship (I'm gay, so my partner and I celebrated the day we met), one, two, or three or more days may be important to him. You may not know when those days are, but you can find out just by asking. The next time you're sitting chatting about the loss, just ask "When did you two meet? When did you get married?" Take note of the responses and be sure to be available for your friend on those days.
Thanksgiving. Pretty self-explanatory. See if your friend wants to join you in your plans. If it's unfeasible for him to join you, see if any of his other friends can invite him into their plans.
Christmas and New Years. This will be a tough one. Christmas isn't just a day... it's a whole season. And as it progresses, it will be harder and harder on your friend. If he lost his loved one shortly before Christmas, he'll still be in heavy grief. If it happened early in the year, he'll be further along in the grieving process by the time the date arrives, but it'll still be pretty hard. For a couple weeks, he's going to be feeling the grief building up. Find out if there was any special gift he used to receive from his partner. My partner always used to give me a 1-pound box of Godiva chocolates. Always! It really saddens me to know that I'll never get them again from him. Not many people are aware that that was a special gift I always got from him, so I don't expect I'll ever get them again. If you know of something that he used to get from his partner, use some discretion and seriously consider if he would like to get the same gift from someone else. Some people may consider it painful, others may like it. I think I would like it. But regardless of what you do, be available for your friend on Christmas. Don't expect him to come to your house. People who are depressed don't always want to go to other people's houses for fear they'll depress other people. Also try to be with your friend on New Years Eve. It's a hard holiday to do alone.

Don't just plan on being there for your friend on those days. He's going to need support throughout the year. Many people make themselves available to help the griever for the first month or two, then taper off because he seems better. I can say this... it's been one month today since I lost Scott, and I'm learning how to put up a pretty good front to people. But when I'm not actually around my friends or on the phone with them, I'm thoroughly depressed and in pain. Don't try to plan on being there every day... your friend needs time to rest, heal, and grieve. But definitely try to be there more often than you normally would. It may be a good idea to get together with his other close friends and share some of the responsibility.

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