Five Ways to Help a Grieving Friend

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Ten years ago my business partner and good friend, Mark, died of colon cancer. Though I was devastated, I focused on running the business and developing a succession plan. Many of our clients were widows, so I decided to take a grief-counseling workshop with the hope of learning to be more empathetic while helping them to move on with their lives.

I “lost it” during one of the workshop exercises. Not only had I never allowed myself to grieve Mark’s death, but I had never gone through the grieving process when my mother died 50 years earlier. I handled her death much the way I handled Mark’s death: I got busy and buried my head in the books. This workshop forced me to go through the grieving process and allowed me, finally, to say goodbye to Mark and Mom.

The Lessons I Learned

Here are five lessons I learned about grief:

  1. Grief is a natural reaction to any type of loss: death, divorce, going out of business or losing a pet.
  2. Grieving is healthy.
  3. I can’t make people feel better by saying things like “Well, you should get another dog,” or, “You will have no problem meeting somebody else.”
  4. I no longer say, “I know exactly how you feel.” I have no way of knowing how someone else feels. I try to be empathetic with comments such as “That must be really hard on you,” or, “I can’t imagine what you are going through.”
  5. I don’t set a time limit for grief. Believing that someone should be “over” their grief in a year is nonsense.


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