How do you go about comforting a friend who has lost someone close? This is a question that haunts people of any age bracket. But learning to share the grief of a friend is particularly important for you as a senior citizen because it’s going to happen more often for you.
There is no sense sugar coating it. As a senior citizen, you are going to have a greater incidence of people your age passing away than people of other age brackets experience. Of course, everybody has the experience of losing a loved one or seeing a close friend or a friend of a friend pass on whether they are young adults, middle aged, teenagers or even children. But as a senior citizen, it is gong to be more common simply because the end of your time as a senior citizen is going on to the next life.
So when you hear that a dear friend lost someone close to them, you can empathize with their loss. But when it comes to going to your friend and offering comfort, that seems difficult and awkward. So it’s good to learn the skills of helping your friend work through this time of loss and to share the grief with them in a way that is helpful to him or her.
In the Jewish scriptures of the Old Testament, there is a story called The Book of Job that has a lot to say about grief and loss. In the story, the lead character, Job, sees all of his children killed in a freak accident and he loses his wealth and property as well. Most of the book is about dealing with tragedy. But when Job’s friends come to give comfort, it’s interesting that the text tells us that they came to him and sat with him for seven days without saying anything.
When you are initially going to visit a friend after the loss, the nagging question is, “What can I say?” The truth is, there isn’t anything you can say that lessens the loss. What your friend really needs is company. The initial loss he is feeling is the presence of that loved one. So we can take a clue from Job’s friends and just be there for your friend or loved one. You don’t really have to say anything. Just physical presence says a lot at a time like this.
Sometimes it’s just the routine things you would do for your friend anyway can do a lot to help them through a time of grief. Take him out to dinner or shopping for shoes for the funeral. Often what many people try to do is to do things for the grieving person as though they are disabled. But a person in grief craves regularity so being with you to do something routine together is a tremendous help.
The best approach you can come up with for really being with your friend when he needs you most is to know how the process of handling the passing works. Most people who want to comfort a grieving friend go to see him in the first day or so after the passing. And you should do that for sure. But that first week will not be the time you are needed the most. Your friend will be busy with the funeral and seeing distant family and getting lots of attention. It’s strange to see this but often the grieving spouse or friend goes through a time of joy during that week simply because it’s a time to see family and friends and to celebrate the life of the dearly departed.
The time when the grief becomes heavy and difficult for the one left behind is after the funeral is over and everybody has gone home and its time to face the days and weeks ahead without the one they are missing. This is the time to go to your friend and make yourself available.
Be available, be easily accessible and be accepting of what they are going through so you can be a catalyst for getting back to normalcy. That is the most valuable thing you can offer your friend because it is more than just sharing his grief. It is helping him get through it which is the healthy way we all use to process grief and get on to a happy life.