As we near the one year anniversary since the pandemic disrupted everything we know about our lives, many of us have lamented the fact that universities have sent us home, offices have become remote, and our friends are only available to see over our computer screens. Yet there are those among us who are dealing with losses far greater than a shortened college career. The US reached the unfortunate milestone of 500,000 COVID-related deaths this week – a number that continues to grow leaving more and more navigating the tough and confusing process of grieving a loved one during a global pandemic. Losing a loved one can be the hardest thing most people go through – to do this in an online space can be even more difficult. At Remembering Live we have had the privilege of helping to guide those who have lost during this truly hard year, and have gained some experience in understanding how to help your friends and loved ones who are grieving online.
Give Space When Space is Needed
It is often a first impulse to reach out when finding out that someone you care about is going through a tough time in their life. However, for people who are grieving a loss, it can be quite overwhelming to be inundated with message after message from people asking if you are okay. Allow your friends the space and time they need to process their complex emotions, and be there for them when they are ready to open up.
Go Beyond “Are You Feeling Okay?”
Getting asked whether you are okay after losing somebody is inevitable. But for anybody who has lost a loved one and grieved, the answer is clearly no, I am not okay. Yet this can be uncomfortable to say when people around you are trying to comfort you and offer their sympathies. Instead of asking closed ended questions like “are you feeling okay,” engage in conversation that allows your friends to express their emotions in a more open way. Death is complicated and the feelings associated with it are never as simple as whether or not you are feeling okay. Asking a grieving friend “what is one thing about today you liked more than the last?” or “how can we make tomorrow better than today?” are both ways to help your friend navigate grieving without being insensitive.
Remember: They Are More Than Their Loss
While being sympathetic towards your grieving friend is a kind and loving gesture that comes from a great place, oftentimes those who have lost loved ones and are going through difficult times are treated far differently than they would be regularly. Your friends may not always want to talk about their loss or be coddled – treat them as you always would. Talk about the basketball game, the music you both enjoy listening to. In mourning death, sometimes the best thing you can do for your friend is to help them live life.