Grief. What it is: Internal thoughts and rationalizations we have after we lose someone or something dear to us. A common and human emotion that is personal to everyone who experiences it. A healthy way to process and eventually cope with death.
Grief is not something to be ashamed of. The grieving process is not the same for everyone. It can last months, years, or a lifetime. It doesn’t follow the rules.
And when someone you care about, a close friend or family member, is experiencing grief, it can be hard to know what to say or do. Even though you have probably experienced grief of your own, you may not know how it feels to lose a loved one to breast cancer or any other number of terminal illnesses.
Chaplain Robert Beisser, ProMedica Hospice bereavement coordinator says that all grief — whether sudden or long-term — is tough and personal. It’s important to recognize the stages of your friend’s grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. And understand that no matter where your friend is on the grief spectrum, you are a welcomed part of their support system.
“Everyone grieves differently,” Beisser says. “But the most important advice I can give is to be present for the person who is grieving in your life.”
Beisser recommends showing support through simple acts of kindness, such as giving your friend a hug, taking them out to a movie, or offering to help with the groceries.
“If they feel like talking, you can encourage them to share memories by asking questions, looking through photo albums, watching home videos or DVDs, or flipping through scrapbooks,” he says.
Beisser suggests additional ways to be there for your friend through the tougher times.
- Helpful for the holidays: Assist with traditions, offer to cook the holiday meal, clean the house, or shop for gifts.
- Phone a friend: Make a regular habit of calling or visiting your friend consistently.
- Show your sympathy: Follow up with a thoughtful card or letter to show you are still thinking of them.
- Close companions: Encourage healthy habits for your friend. Offer to go on walks with them, cook a nutritional meal, or participate in a group fitness class together.
Learn more about ProMedica Cancer Institute’s free support programs for patients and their supporters.