Helping a Girlfriend Through Grief | Advice from Arlett R. Hartie

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girlfriend guru, be a better friendGrief is itself a medicine.  ~William Cowper, Charity

We know how to celebrate with our girlfriends. We know whether to suggest cocktails, a huge party, a brunch get-together, or just a long chat on the phone. But when times are difficult, it’s often harder to know just what to do.

Girlfriend Guru ARLETT R. HARTIE knows we can sometimes use a little help knowing how to be a good friend to a grieving girlfriend. Today’s blog is full of great reminders and suggestions for being a better friend during the tough times.

It is easy to be a good girlfriend when everything is going great, when everyone is happy, and healthy and thriving.  It’s not so easy to be a good girlfriend when times are rough, sad or shadowed by grief.  Unfortunately, due to a coworker experiencing an awful and tragic death in his family, I had the opportunity to get some tips from a grief counselor on how to be a good girlfriend when your friend is grieving.

  • It is important to understand that the emotion of grief is a result of loss.  This can be any kind of loss including a death, divorce or break up, job loss, or any big change that involves the loss of what’s familiar.
  • There are several stages of grief including shock/denial, guilt, anger, depression, and acceptance.  There is no particular order to the stages other than acceptance is last.  Often people will move back and forth between the different stages.  I think the stages that stood out the most to me after the death of my father were guilt and depression.  The depression one was kind of obvious in that I just missed my dad a lot and it was (still is at times) very painful.  But the guilt was less obvious. For me it manifested in feelings of how can I be having fun or enjoying myself when my dad is not here. People often feel guilt in wishing there was something they could have done differently to prevent the loss.  All of these stages are normal and are not a problem unless they become so overwhelming that you cannot work or function normally.
  • The main ways to help your girlfriend as she moves through these stages are to be sensitive, be a good listener, and be encouraging. Be sensitive by expressing how sorry you are for her loss or difficult circumstance.  Be a good listener by letting your girlfriend know that you are there if she wants to talk.  Acknowledge that you don’t know what to say (most of us don’t really know what to say when bad things happen) but that you are there nevertheless.  Be encouraging by encouraging your girlfriend to take care of herself by eating and keeping up with routine grooming and personal to help a friend in loss
  • There are certain phrases that you should avoid saying to your grieving girlfriend. Things like “I know how you feel” and “I have been through the same thing” do not help and are not really accurate. You may have been through something very similar, but you cannot experience the same exact emotions in the same way as your girlfriend.  Phrases like “it’ll get better” and “everything will be fine” do not help your girlfriend right now in the present moment.  Phrases like “he or she is in a better place” do not acknowledge what the grieving person is going through.
  • Here are some practical ways to help your girlfriend during the grieving process: Spend time with your girlfriend, attending funeral or memorial services if you feel comfortable doing so, offer to help her with thank you notes, sharing memories with your girlfriend, running errands for your girlfriend, being a good listener, helping her with meals, or encouraging your girlfriend to rest.

These tips were discussed in the grief counselor and provided on a handout adapted with permission from the National Mental Health Association.

How have you helped or been helped by your girlfriend during a time of grief and loss?

ARLETT R HARTIE is the author of the blog Chasing Joy. Arlette’s writing focuses on her efforts to find happiness after a rough time in her life, and hold on to it through all of life’s ups and downs.  She writes about all things related to joy, positivity, and gratitude.  She is a daughter, sister, auntie, and Girlfriend.

THANKS ARLETT for sharing your great girlfriend wisdom. Check out Arlett’s previous guest blogs:

Plus – how to help yourself or a friend deal with depression, great girlfriend advice!

By the way, we LOVE guest blogs here at Girlfriendology. Have a great girlfriend story to tell? Want to celebrate your fabulous female friends? SHARE! (And, we also have Girlfriend Gurus – check that out to be featured on Girlfriendology!) SIGN UP for our weekly newsletter and get our FREE eBook ‘30 Days / 30 Ways to Be a Better Friend– check it out!

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