“Whoa. What Do We Do Now?” Practical Advice on Supporting a Friend Through the Loss of a Loved One

This past year, my best friend’s mom died.  She’d been sick for a very long time and we all had a feeling this day was coming.  Neither of these facts made it any easier when we were leaving the hospital right after her mom passed away.  In shock and on autopilot, we walked out to the parking lot, got in the car and drove home.  When we walked into the house she had grown up in, we sat down on the couch and she said, “Whoa. What do we do now?”

In all reality, there is no instruction manual on how to support a friend after their loved one dies.  However, there are several practical things you can do that help you to support them in their grief.

Firstly, the best thing you can do right after the loss happens is allowing her to grieve how she wants.  In my hurry to leave the house when I was called to the hospital, I had left the TV on a Disney movie marathon. That night, we sat there and watched the end of The Lion King and all of Aladdin.  Is this the right thing for her to do right after she loses her mom? For her, it was, because it allowed her some time to process and have the new reality sink in.

At times, you may have to act as a gatekeeper.  My best friend, although she loved the large community from school, didn’t want to see anyone besides immediate family and her closest friends.  It was awkward to tell people that another time may be better to visit, but it gave my friend some control. As a group of people who had my friend’s best interest at heart, the majority of people understood.  For those who didn’t, I was as loving as possible but stood firm in honoring her request.  It got pretty uncomfortable, but after much prayer and seeking of advice from her pastor, I felt like it was the right thing to do.

Finally, listen without judgment.  At times, your friend may be showing her grief by getting mad at the little things that normally would not upset them.  She may also be angry with the family member she lost, God, or even herself.  It is not your job to take away her grief.  Encourage her to continue to pray, even when God seems far away.  A verse that explains the reason for this is Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (ESV). You may have to remind them often of this promise and make sacrifices to be available for those times when they need a listening ear.

Walking the journey with a friend who has lost a loved one is never easy.  There is no exact science to it and each journey is different.  If you stay grounded in His Word, pray fervently and listen for nudges from Him, you will be able to help your friend during this difficult season in their lives.  Also, remember that you are not alone in supporting your friend in her grief.  If you feel like her sadness is more than she can handle or that another listening ear would be helpful, it may be helpful to encourage her to speak to a pastor or counselor.

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