Healing a Friend's Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas for Helping Someone You Love Through Loss

Healing a Friend's Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas for Helping Someone You Love Through Loss

by Alan D. Wolfelt
     
 

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A compassionate resource for friends, parents, relatives, teachers, volunteers, and caregivers, this series offers suggestions to help the grieving cope with the loss of a loved one. Often people do not know what to say—or what not to say—to someone they know who is mourning; this series teaches that the most important thing a person can do is

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Overview

A compassionate resource for friends, parents, relatives, teachers, volunteers, and caregivers, this series offers suggestions to help the grieving cope with the loss of a loved one. Often people do not know what to say—or what not to say—to someone they know who is mourning; this series teaches that the most important thing a person can do is listen, have compassion, be there for support, and do something helpful. This volume provides the fundamental principles of being a true companion, from committing to contact the friend regularly to being mindful of the anniversary of the death. Included in each book are tested, sensitive ideas for “carpe diem” actions that people can take right this minute—while still remaining supportive and honoring the mourner’s loss.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
People often wonder how to comfort friends who are grieving over the loss of loved one. Many of the 100 suggestions in this book reflect sensible and easy to implement ideas to support a grieving friend. For example, readers can offer to do chores for a friend, organize a memory book, exercise together and remember ones who are grieving during the holidays. Each page in the book states a suggestion and follows up with various elaborations. In addition, at the bottom of each page is a "carpe diem," which urges readers with a way to implement the suggestion today. The author also lists ten essential qualities for friends of the bereaved at the end of the book. Overall, the text is helpful and to the point;readers can pick and choose the suggestions that resonate best in their situation. The page with suggestion 48 has a typographical error—"carpe" is spelled "cape." 2001, Companion Press/The Center for Loss and Life Transition, $11.95. Ages 13 up. Reviewer:Jeanne K. Pettenati

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781879651265
Publisher:
Companion Press
Publication date:
04/01/2001
Series:
Healing a Grieving Heart Series
Pages:
128
Sales rank:
667,976
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.35(d)

Read an Excerpt

Healing a Friend's Grieving Heart

100 Practical Ideas for Helping Someone You Love Through Loss


By Alan D. Wolfelt

Center for Loss and Life Transition

Copyright © 2001 Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-879651-26-5



CHAPTER 1

1.


UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GRIEF AND MOURNING.


• Grief is the constellation of internal thoughts and feelings we have when someone loved dies.

• Mourning is the outward expression of our grief.

• Everyone grieves when someone loved dies, but if we are to heal, we must also mourn.

• You can help by creating "safe places" for your friend to mourn in ways that fit her personality. If she would like to talk, encourage her to talk. If she likes to write, encourage her to keep a journal. The key is to find forms of expression that are appropriate for the individual. There is no one "right" way to mourn.

CARPE DIEM:

Consider the past losses in your own life. Did you mourn those deaths? If not, what were the consequences of repressing your thoughts and feelings?


2.


UNDERSTAND THE SIX NEEDS OF MOURNING


Need #1: Acknowledge the reality of the death.

• Your friend must confront the reality that someone he loved is dead and will never physically be present to him again.

• Whether the death was sudden or anticipated, acknowledging the full reality of the loss may occur over weeks and months.

• At times your friend may, in her heart or aloud, deny the reality of the death. This is normal. She will come to accept the reality in doses as she is ready.

• When your friend expresses her thoughts about the fact of the death, she is working on this important need. You can help by listening.

CARPE DIEM:

You may sense circumstances surrounding the death that your friend needs to think and talk about over and over again. Commit yourself to gently explore these circumstances with your friend. Your task is not to have answers, but to listen with your heart.


3.


UNDERSTAND THE SIX NEEDS OF MOURNING


Need #2: Embrace the pain of the loss.

• This need requires mourners to embrace the pain of their loss — something they naturally don't want to do. It is easier to avoid, repress or deny the pain of grief than it is to confront it.

• It is in confronting her grief, however, that your friend will learn to reconcile herself to it.

• Your friend will probably need to "dose" himself in embracing his pain. If he were to allow in all the pain at once, he would die.

• Don't buy into the myth that if your friend seems to be experiencing little pain, she is "doing well" with her grief.

CARPE DIEM:

Symbols of support often bring comfort to people experiencing the pain of grief. Think of a symbol of support you can take to your friend this week that will provide a balm for the pain. Consider flowers, comfort food, a hope-filled book.

4.


UNDERSTAND THE SIX NEEDS OF MOURNING


Need #3: Remember the person who died.

• When someone loved dies, they live on in us through memory.

• Your friend needs to actively remember the person who died and commemorate the life that was lived.

• Never try to take your friend's memories away in a misguided attempt to save him from pain. It's good for him to continue to display photos of the person who died. When possible, it's also good for him to stay in the house he shared with the person who died.

• Remembering the past makes hoping for the future possible.

CARPE DIEM:

Choose a special, appropriate frame to hold a photo of the person who died. Give it to your friend this week along with a note explaining what the frame is for and why you chose this particular one.


5.


UNDERSTAND THE SIX NEEDS OF MOURNING


Need #4: Develop a new self-identity.

• Part of your friend's self-identity was formed by the relationship she had with the person who died.

• She may have gone from being a "wife" to a "widow" or from a "parent" to a "bereaved parent." The way she defined herself and the way society defined her is changed.

• Your friend needs to re-anchor himself, to reconstruct his self-identity. This is arduous and painful work.

• Many mourners discover that as they work on this need, they ultimately discover some positive changes, such as becoming more caring or less judgmental.

CARPE DIEM:

Write your friend a note that both honors her old identity and demonstrates your allegiance to her new one. For example, if the person who died was part of a couple you socialized with: "You and Bob had a marriage I admired and respected. I want you know that I continue to admire and respect you as the special individual you are."


6.


UNDERSTAND THE SIX NEEDS OF MOURNING


Need #5: Search for meaning.

• When someone loved dies, we naturally question the meaning and purpose of life and death.

• "Why?" questions may surface uncontrollably and often precede "How" questions. "Why did this happen?" comes before "How will I go on living?"

• Your friend will probably question his philosophy of life and explore religious and spiritual values as he works on this need.

• Now is not the time to foist your own religious views on your friend.

CARPE DIEM:

When you hear your friend questioning the meaning of life and death, commit yourself to not thinking you have to have answers. Ask to sit beside her instead of across from her as she explores the "whys."


7.


UNDERSTAND THE SIX NEEDS OF MOURNING


Need #6: Receive ongoing support from others.

• Mourners need the love and understanding of others if they are to heal.

• By helping a friend in grief, you are helping him meet this sixth and final need of mourning.

• Unfortunately, our society places too much value on "carrying on" and "doing well" after a death. So, many mourners are abandoned by their friends and family soon after the death.

• Grief is a process, not an event, and your friend will need your continued support for weeks, months and years.

CARPE DIEM:

Stop for a moment and think: When did your friend's loved one die? Has your support for your friend waned since the funeral? Has your contact been less and less frequent? Commit right now to contacting or spending time with your friend every week for the next year.


8.


MAKE A "CONTACT PACT" WITH YOURSELF.


• Commit to contacting your friend once a week/month.

• Vary your means and time of contact so your friend won't feel he's just an item on your "to do" list.

• Your contact needn't take a lot of time; a brief phone call or a short note are enough to demonstrate your support.

• Don't neglect your friend as time passes; mourners need support long after the event of the death.

CARPE DIEM:

Right now, pick up your appointment book and schedule a regular, ongoing time to contact your friend. Write it down!


9.


ATTEND THE FUNERAL.


• Funerals are our way of saying goodbye to the person who died and honoring the life that was lived. They are also our way of demonstrating our support for those most impacted by the death.

• Even if you didn't personally know the person who died, it's appropriate for you to attend the funeral to show your support for your friend.

• Try hard to attend all the phases of the funeral — the visitation, the funeral, the committal, the gathering afterwards.

CARPE DIEM:

During the funeral, consider the purpose of the many elements of the ceremony. Why view the body? Why the music? Why the procession to the cemetery? Each is meaningful and merits contemplation. If the funeral was meaningful to you, let your friend know. Many mourners feel comforted by the knowledge that it was a "good funeral."


10.


RECORD THE FUNERAL FOR POSTERITY.

• It's common for mourners to feel numb in the first days and weeks following the death. Often the funeral feels like a blur.

• Later, though, many mourners find comfort in the memory of the funeral. "I wish I could remember just what Pastor Johnson said," they think.

• Audiotape the funeral ceremony, especially the eulogy, for your friend. Then, when you think she's ready, offer to sit down and listen to the tape with her.

• Videotaping and photography are usually considered taboo at funerals, though people of some cultures photograph the dead as a way of capturing and honoring the end of a person's life.

CARPE DIEM:

If appropriate, assemble a funeral "scrapbook" for your friend. Include the obituary from the newspaper, the program from the funeral ceremony and leave plenty of room for your friend to insert sympathy cards and other mementos.


11.


LISTEN WITHOUT JUDGING.


• The most important gift you can give your grieving friend is the gift of your presence. Be there for her. Initiate contact. And listen, listen, listen.

• Listen some more. If he wants to talk about the death over and over again, listen patiently each time. Telling and retelling the story helps mourners heal.

• Don't worry so much about what you will say in return; instead, concentrate on the words being shared with you.

CARPE DIEM:

Commit yourself right now to setting a time to visit with your friend within the next 72 hours. Promise yourself that you will focus on being the best possible listener. Keep in mind the 80/20 ratio: your friend should talk 80 percent of the time to your 20 percent!


12.


UNDERSTAND WHY LISTENING CAN BE DIFFICULT.

• Sometimes listening to a friend in grief talk about his thoughts and feelings or recount the story of the death can be uncomfortable for us as friends.

• Listening may stimulate unreconciled griefs in us and demands exploration of pain and trauma.

• Listening to others struggle may also leave us feeling helpless and ineffectual.

CARPE DIEM:

If you feel like you just can't listen to your friend's pain right now, make an effort to stay in contact through letters, short phone calls, and token gifts of your love and support. Perhaps in a month or two you'll feel more able to spend time listening to your friend's thoughts and feelings.


13.


DON'T FALL BACK ON CLICHÉS.

• Mourners' deep and extremely complicated feelings of loss are often dismissed with overly simple, empty phrases such as:

* - Give it time.

* - Keep busy.

* - Be strong.

* - At least he didn't suffer.

* - It's time to move on.

* - He lived a long life.

* - Try not to think about it.

* - You'll become stronger because of this.

* - Don't cry.

* - He wouldn't have wanted you to be sad.

* - Life is for the living.

• Though well-intended, such clichés hurt because they diminish the mourner's feelings and take away his right to mourn.

CARPE DIEM:


Read Idea 15 right now. That way you'll be better equipped to talk to your friend next time you meet.


14.


DON'T USE RELIGIOUS CLICHÉS, EITHER.


• Sometimes people use theologized clichés in an attempt to comfort:

* - It was God's will.

* - God only gives you what you can handle.

* - Now she's in peace/a better place.

* - This is a blessing.

* - Now you have an angel in heaven.

• Like other clichés, these expressions tend to minimize the mourner's loss.

• Your friend may have faith but still needs to mourn this death.

CARPE DIEM:

If you've used any of the phrases on this page or the previous page, don't worry too much. Your friend knows you were trying to help. But make an effort from this day forward to not fall back on clichés again as you attempt to help a friend in grief.


15.


DO SAY THIS:


• I'm sorry.

• I'm thinking of you.

• I care.

• I love you.

• You are so important to me.

• I'm here for you.

• I want to help.

• I'm thinking of you and praying for you every day.

• I want you to know I loved ______________, too.

CARPE DIEM:

Call your friend tomorrow morning and say, "I just want you to know I'm thinking of you."


16.


EXPECT YOUR FRIEND TO HAVE A MULTITUDE OF FEELINGS.


• Mourners don't just feel sad. They may feel numb, angry, guilty, afraid, confused or even relieved. Sometimes these feelings follow each other within a short period of time or they may occur simultaneously.

• As strange as some of these emotions may seem to you, they are normal and healthy.

• Allow your friend to express whatever she's feeling without judgment. Your job is to listen, listen, listen.

CARPE DIEM:

Try this "active listening" technique with your friend. Next time she shares her feelings with you, summarize by saying, "So you're feeling _________ because _______________."


17.


ALLOW YOUR FRIEND TO CRY.


• Tears are a natural cleansing and healing mechanism. It's OK to cry. In fact, it's good to cry when you feel like it. Plus, tears are a form of mourning. They are sacred!

• Most people are uncomfortable when others cry in their presence. For the sake of your friend, try not to be one of those people.

• If your friend cries when you're with her, resist the urge to hand her a Kleenex or hug her right away. Though loving and well -intended, both of these responses tend to send the message that you'd like her to stop crying.

• Instead, lean into her and lightly place your hand on her arm or hold her hand.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Healing a Friend's Grieving Heart by Alan D. Wolfelt. Copyright © 2001 Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of Center for Loss and Life Transition.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD, is an internationally known teacher, a grief counselor, and the author of The Journey Through Grief and The Understanding Your Grief Journal. He is director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition and faculty member at the University of Colorado Medical School’s department of family medicine. He is the “Children and Grief” columnist for Bereavement magazine and has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, and NBC’s Today. He lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.

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