This afternoon Hollywood is grieving upon hearing about the untimely death of Heath Ledger. His death at 28 years old is untimely. A drug overdose from prescription pills is suspected. However, since there has not been an autopsy yet, the true cause of death has not been confirmed. Busy Phillips was reportedly seen comforting Michelle Williams receiving news of this unexpected loss. Busy Philipps is godmother of Dawson Creek’s co-star Michelle Williams. Philipps and Ledger have a daughter named Matilda Rose who was born in 2005.
Ledgers most famous role in Broke Back Mountain in 2005 won him an Oscar nomination. During this tragic time, we have a connection to the stars. The connection is that we all at one point in our lives will experience loss.
Below are 5 steps to help a loved one grieve with a loss.
Act normal. Visit your friend in person if at all possible, or call on the phone. If there is a great distance between you a hand written note of sympathy is personal. Text messages, or email, are not as personal, and should be used to get the person on the phone, or to meet up with them in person. When you see them, do not try to cheer them up. Listen. Even if you are the main one talking, whenever they comment, or say something, let them talk uninterrupted. A few minutes of your undivided attention, where your friend’s feelings are being listened to is very important.
Choose your words wisely.
Let them know that you are sorry about their loss. The old cliché’ sayings you have heard growing up may not bring about the desired results. Do not say “I understand exactly how you feel”, or challenge the words they are expressing to you about the loss. In that moment, you are not that individual. No matter how close you are. You do not have the bond, of history with that other person. You do not know their complete life story. Or know the reasoning behind their belief system based on their past experiences. Comparing your loss to another person is not appropriate. Do know pretend to know exactly how they feel, in that moment.
Be supportive, positive, and grounded. If the person who passed away, was a spouse, or close friend remember what activities they did together. For example, do not encourage immediately going to deceased favorite hang out. Instead talk directly about the person who passed away. Do not erase that person, by being afraid to mention their name. Be sensitive around birthdays, and holidays they would share together. Remember grieving is a time of healing, and crying, pain of the heart is normal. A hug, holding someone while they cry is being a good friend. Watching the children, while they take a shower, get groceries, or pay bills, may allow them a few moments of peace.
Hit the town.
If your friend has not left the house in weeks, invite them out for coffee, or a manicure, anything social. Church events, community groups, or a dinner out of the home may be just what they need. Try to find activities that you both enjoy doing, such as crossword puzzles, sports, or simply taking a walk.
Well meaning advice, and quick fixes that lead to no where.
Many times we try to rationalize what is going on inside of someone else. Our advice, of telling someone those things will work, settle down, or offering ways to completely ignore the problem, are not suggested. For example, telling a loved one who has lost a spouse, not to worry about the bills right now. Instead of seeing what resources are available to help sort out the financial problems, caused by the loss of income, can create larger problems. The resource could be introducing them to a professional career counselor who could evaluate their career skills. Find out what skills they need to quickly return to the work force, and assist them with finding a job. The solution to the situations caused by a loss normally requires action of the person grieving, and outside help from people not emotionally invested in the situation. Do not suggest drinking, abuse of prescription medications, or any type of recreational drug use to temporarily numb the pain. Imagine if you advised a friend to not worry about working for the next few months, and you continue to invite them out for drinks to unwind. Suppose they listen to you, and end up with a home foreclosure, and a DUI for driving drunk?
Questions in life are not always easy; sometimes the answer of why? Is unknown. When loss occurs, knowing that you have a friend who will listen to your feelings is priceless. You can help your friend heal through loving actions, choosing to be positive, and talk in truth. Do not let them ignore reality. Stop by; do not wait for them to call.