I wrote a post yesterday (21 October) about a workshop to help those who recently lost their jobs to process the experience. One of the things we’ll address in that workshop is the need to ask for help, to speak about the emotions and to seek social support. To do that, we need friends and partners who are willing and able to support us through the process of grief. Most of us are willing to support our friends, but we may not have the skills. And we may inadvertently do more harm than good.
If you are the friend, partner or family member of someone experiencing loss and grief, here are 8 habits of highly effective Besties:
Encourage them to speak
An important part of healthy processing is to express our feelings, thoughts and emotions. Especially emotions. Let your friend talk instead of bottle up or push the emotions away or to deny them. If they find it hard to speak, let them draw, paint, write…as long as they express it.
Allow them to feel what they feel
Encourage them to allow their emotions and to fully experience them. Feeling emotions and talking about them will NOT make things worse. So, don’t criticize, acknowledge what they are feeling as real for them. This may be scary and you may want to rescue them or make them feel better. Don’t. Allow them to feel their emotions as this will help them to process them more effectively. Then Listen
Listen to them
There are three ways in which we can listen more effectively. Firstly, don’t advise. When faced with the grief and pain of others, we instinctively jump to the “rescuer” mode. We want to help the person feel better, fix the problem, relieve their pain. So we give advice. Avoid the temptation. Just listen. Secondly, don’t judge. We may be uncomfortable or scared by others’ emotions, especially if these are intense. Allow them to feel whatever they are feeling. Allow them to express what they want to express – anger, sadness, fear, helplessness…anything goes. Lastly, listen actively and patiently, show them that you heard them. Use phrases such as “so, you’re feeling like a failure” or “you’re angry at your company for doing this to you” and “I can see that you’re really angry”.
Encourage them to remain continue with meaningful activities
Don’t let them sit in the dark and brood all day. Do something fun, continue with hobbies, get together with friends. They may want to avoid this, so gently nudge them to continue with things that provide meaning in their lives. Contrary to common belief, we can do these things even if we don’t feel like it.
Go slow on the “numbing stuff”
Alcohol, drugs, food, exercise, shopping are some of the favorite ways to numb our emotions. They work wonderfully…in moderation. If you see your friend overusing any of these, you may want to recommend speaking to a professional.
Recommend speaking to a professional
Most of us associate counseling or therapy with “being broken” or weak. Counselors, coaches, therapists are trained to help you explore, express and release emotions effectively. This would be especially important if they engage in dis functional behaviour or talk about suicide. Many organisations offer EAP or counseling services that employees are reluctant to use. Encourage them to find out about the support provided by their organisations.
Take care of yourself
If you are a close loved one or best friend you will experience a lot of tough and challenging emotions. Make sure that you are kind to yourself. Talk to your friends, recharge your batteries and don’t let the emotions of your friend overwhelm you.
Lastly, remember that each person’s journey of loss and grief is unique. Remind your friend of that. Some of us move on quickly. Some take time. We cannot say how long it takes but one thing is sure: the more we fight it, the slower we go.