Helping a Grieving Friend
January 11, 2005 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Tonight the father of a close friend of mine passed away. In the last month this is the third relative he has lost and his mother is in cancer treatement : more inside

He recently lost two grannies, one very loved one and his father yesterday won by a pneumonia at the age of 70.

The guy is steaming with suffering as all of this is falling on his head in less the one month his mother is in an out hospital due to chemioterapy for a cancer. Basically his family has been decimated during xmas.

I really would like to help him in the grieving process and of course I offered my assistance on any matter I can possibly assist in.

Question: know any lived (not merely referred to) psycological method to help the grieving process ? Some hint to how to handle the situation which is quite harh..his family disappearing in front of his eyes.

THat's so real it's depressing.
posted by elpapacito to Human Relations (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A few years ago (around spring 2000) my family went through something kinda similar. My mother's MS became "progressive" instead of relapsing/remitting (she quickly got much worse); my uncle (mom's bro-in-law, via her identical twin) died of pancreatic cancer; I was in chemo for Hodgkin's; and our beloved grandpa (mom's dad) died after breaking his hip. It also seemed like there were people dying all around us, although I think we were just more aware of the passing of acquaintances and distant relatives because of the intensity of what we were dealing with in the more immediate circle. My mother's sister obviously got the worst of it, but it was a tough time for everyone.

And unfortunately, all I can offer as advice is as cliche as it gets, which is, just be there for him, offer to help with menial tasks, and let him talk to you if he needs to. There are bad times and there are good times in almost every family; it will get better again. But life can seem quite cruel and pointless when you're in the midst of that sort of loss, so having good friends around who honestly want to make your life worth living is a real help. You actually can make a significant difference, I think.
posted by mdn at 8:48 AM on January 11, 2005

Good morning. My own history includes research with the dying and I currently volunteer in the same AIDS hospice. I have 5 years experience on a local Crisis Intervention center's 'Crisis Hotline'. However, none of this necessarily prepared me for dealing with grief in myself or others. It has merely given me experiences to draw from, so that I might be the kind of person with enough stamina and empathy to make a difference when tested. The gifts you can give are apparent with this post.

You are in a wonderful position to help your friend, and from what you have said, it seems you are already making a difference. I also have a background in psychology and thanatology, but listing charts or steps in the grieving process will probably not help. The best things you can do: be there, and to be honest. When he's there, in front of you, confounded and broken-down, and you don't know what to say, do not presume to understand his grief and simply say, as you feel, "I don't know what to say. I really want to be here for you. Please tell me what you need. I care deeply for you." Ask him about his beloved familiy members- what were their nicknames, and where did they grow up...

No one can understand his grief and what those beloved family members truly mean to him- you are a strong and compassionate person for reaching out- now, you just need to keep being there when he reaches out. Let's hope his year improves.
posted by maya at 8:48 AM on January 11, 2005

Also, remember that everybody has different needs in these situations and those needs may also change through time. Just be flexible and understanding of your friend's needs and use your discretion. It will be a hard year for your friend but perhaps you will be there to provide support or to provide a distraction.
posted by crazy finger at 9:02 AM on January 11, 2005

Here's a blog of a friend who recently lost his grandma, probably the most important person in his life, besides his wife and children. His two most recent entries are about greiving and how he feels about people assisting. Maybe it can help.
posted by TuxHeDoh at 9:28 AM on January 11, 2005

I lost my Dad to lymphoma in October. I was an only kid and he raised me as a single dad so we were very close. I spent most of the last year looking after him and dealing with the whole emotional rollercoaster of having a close relative die. To echo the comments above, just telling your friend that you are there for him, for anything he wants and at anytime he needs means a lot. I had several friends offer that to me and made me feel less alone. I was touched. I may not have used their support as much as I could, but just knowing they were there gave me strength.

In the end, I think it's something your friend really has to deal with on his own since it's a personal time for grief and reflection, but having friends to talk to (and just knowing you have friends) is very comforting in a time like this.

Listen to him, try to figure what help he might need (perhaps moving stuff out of a house?), yet give him space if he needs it and bottom line just let him now that he is loved and that you are there for him.
posted by kongg at 9:48 AM on January 11, 2005

also take him out and treat him--to drinks, or dinner or whatever--just to hang out. Just being with other people in the world is good, whether he wants to talk or not.
posted by amberglow at 10:04 AM on January 11, 2005

Reach out as much as you can - your friend's probably in some kind of psychological shock/numb state, and may not remember or feel ok about reaching out to others. Take him out, spend time with him, but don't assume that the only useful conversations you'll have with him are those relating to his loss. Like amberglow says, sometimes it's a huge comfort to grieving people to just take a break from the grief and go hang out and be reminded that normal life continues.

Not all grieving requires a professionalized approach to it. If he thinks he wants to talk to a professional, by all means he should do so. But this is by no means always necessary - people can be exceptionally resilient. Just keep an eye open for dysfunctional coping (e.g., excessive drinking, unsafe/risky behaviors in other fields, excessive isolation) - if you see some of these, talk to him about your concerns.
posted by jasper411 at 12:35 PM on January 11, 2005

"offer to help with menial tasks"

the best advice yet. i lost my parents within 18 months when i was in 19 and 20. it's the small stupid stuff that gets lost in the shuffle. like cleaning the house, paying the bills (not that you can pay someone's bills) but if you're close enough, just going through the pile of mail that might accumulate to find the stuff that can't be ignored. even a hot, homeade dinner or taking messages and making notes off the answering machine.
posted by heather at 1:35 PM on January 11, 2005

Thanks a lot for the ideas. It seems I took instinctive action on that by offering assistance spontaneously , guess I'll try to peek and see if there's something I can ..again, just to "keep the channel open and offer a vent valve"
posted by elpapacito at 3:00 PM on January 11, 2005

When my mom died I was just glad that my good friends still came around and that they always brought me cigarettes.

Also, that they were instinctive enough to not try to force any particular emotions out of me. They just let me exist in their presence, and that was great.
posted by mosch at 11:38 PM on January 11, 2005

Grief counciling may best be done in a group setting. If your friend is so inclined, inquire with local hospitals. I went to such a group a few times when my first partner died suddenly, it helped. But I living in a place where I knew almost no one. A horror beyond words!
posted by Goofyy at 1:07 AM on January 12, 2005

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