I have a friend who is really struggling. She lost a close family member not too long ago and is clearly having a hard time moving forward. She seems unhappy a lot and breaks down in tears on a regular basis. She also does not seem to want to do things like she used to. I don’t know how to help her. So far I’ve tried distracting her and dragging her to events in hopes of making her laugh. Any ideas on how to help her move forward?
Signed, Can’t Relate
Not sure if this loss is due — to death, divorce or something else entirely. Hopefully my answer will address any and all of these. Loss is loss. There is no answer that will work for everyone because everyone’s experience of loss is different. Although we know there have been books written on the subject, there is no one way to deal with loss.
When I searched the definition of loss my favorite meaning from Google stated that loss is “the state or feeling of grief when deprived of someone or something of value.” Your friend lost something of value and there is likely an emptiness that cannot be replaced. First off, don’t try to replace it. That is a mistake our society makes all too often. Instead, just show up and be ready to acknowledge it and talk about it. That is the best you can do. Remember that your actions don’t have to be grandiose, they just have to be authentic and intended with love.
One of my favorite movies is Disney’s “Inside Out” (I think I’ve mentioned this before). My kids give me a hard time because out of all of the funny parts of this movie, my favorite scene is when the character Joy tries to make Riley’s imaginary friend, Bing Bong, happy when he and Riley’s rocket gets pushed into the dump. All he really needs is someone to be with him in his despair…step in, Sadness. She just shows up and listens to his story and sits with him in his grief. It’s confusing to Joy, who is an expert at making people smile. It’s a turning point in the movie, however, because it was that very action that helped Bing Bong move forward. That is a lesson that we should all learn from — empathy.
The dance of walking through suffering with someone is one of the most intimate experiences that two people can share. It takes patience and courage and a vulnerability that is not present in other relationships to the same extent. Not being afraid to acknowledge someone else’s pain means to brave and unselfish. It means that you are saying “it matters” and “you are not alone in your grief.’ It can be costly because it can hurt, besides being exhausting, but the payoffs are true friendship. In my opinion, that outweighs the feelings of discomfort or sadness.