Friends are meant to be there not only during the happy times and joyous occasions, but also the difficult situations, like grieving a loved one.

Grieving is never easy, It can impact a person’s well-being emotionally, mentally and physically. The outcome of losing a loved one can manifest itself in denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. 

Other complicated dynamics, such as family drama or funeral arrangements, also can add to the emotionally draining experience. While dealing with the overwhelming aftermath, supportive friendships offer positivity and become a beacon of hope. Therapist and author Oludara Adeeyo spoke with 21Ninety about three helpful ways a friend can be supportive in a time of need.

Photo Credit: oneinchpunch

Leave Space For Normalcy

Regardless of the severity of the loss, it may still be difficult for a person to come to terms with the shift that the void can cause. Adjustments to change take time to process and adapt. Adeeyo emphasized how crucial it’s to maintain a sense of normalcy while a person is grieving.

To not confuse normalcy with ignoring a friend’s reality, acknowledging the loss while preventing that from becoming the main focus creates balance. 

“When people have friends or loved ones who have lost someone, they often don’t know what to do,” Adeeyo told 21Ninety. “They stay away or don’t say anything. That’s the last thing you want to do.”

Communication is Always Best

While it may seem like a minor gesture, those texts, calls and voicemails go a long way, even if it may not seem like it. If unsure if these supportive attempts are helpful, Adeeyo encourages asking about their needs.

“It’s best to ask what kind of support they need versus giving whatever support you think the person needs,” she said.

Letting a friend know it’s okay to not know what they need helps give them one less thing to think about while grieving.

“Sometimes, when people don’t know [what they need], they need time to reflect or joyful distractions, like spending time with other people,” she said. 

A whirlwind of emotions also can rise during the grieving process that is not always sadness. On some days, anger can potentially be another difficult emotion to process. Adeeyo urges people to give a friend grace if they are on the receiving end of it.

Validate Instead of Dismissing Their Emotions

When situations are uncomfortable or difficult to navigate, a common response is to find the silver lining in an unfortunate event. At the moment, that may seem like the right way to handle grieving a loss, but it could be more harmful than helpful. 

“When other people are going through hard emotions, we often have a hard time dealing with that,” Adeeyo said. “We may tell people to not be sad or their loved one is in a better place.” 

Adeeyo described that response as toxic positivity, which is the notion that people should maintain a positive mindset no matter the negative situation. She explained dismissive comments invalidate people’s feelings and don’t allow a person to exist in their current emotional state. Instead of disregarding that negative feeling, leaving room for the discomfort creates a safe space for vulnerability.