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What Can I Do For Her?

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Ten years ago my best friend lost her mom to cancer. It was & is still very hard for her to deal with. She was only 17 at the time, & the baby of the family. Now she just found out that her sister-in-law is dieing of cancer & it has brought back all those horrid memories of her mom's passing. She is so beside herself all she does is cry. On top of just finding all this out, she is about 5-6 hundred miles away from them. So it is not like she can just drop everything & go be with her for the day. I want to do my best to do all I can for her, but I am at a loss. I have told her I am here for her when ever she needs to talk, day or night. But I just do not feel that I am doing enough. If any of you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Thank you,


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Tootie, First of all, I think you are a great friend because you care so much! I thought I'd post a "wish list" that I sent to my family and friends after my Josh died. (I didn't write it myself!) Maybe it will help. Kelly

Wish List…

• I wish you would not be afraid to speak my loved one's name. They lived and were important and I need to hear their name.

• If I cry and get emotional if we talk about my loved one, I wish you knew that it isn't because you hurt me: the fact that they died causes my tears.

• You have allowed me to cry and I thank you. Crying and emotional outbursts are healing.

• I will have emotional highs and lows, ups and downs. I wish you wouldn't think that if I have a good cry my grief is all over, or that if I have a bad day I need psychiatric counseling.

• Being Bereaved is not contagious, so I wish you wouldn't stay away from me.

• I wish you knew all the "crazy" grief reactions that I am having are in fact very normal. Depression, anger, fear, hopelessness and questioning of values and beliefs are to be expected following a death.

• I wish you wouldn't expect my grief to be over in 6 months. The first few years are going to be exceedingly traumatic for me. As with alcoholics, I will never be "cured" or a "formerly bereaved", but forevermore be recovering from my bereavement.

• I wish you understood the physical reaction to grief. I may gain weight, lose weight, sleep all the time or not at all, develop a host of illnesses and be accident prone, all of which are related to my grief.

• Our loved one's birthday, the anniversary of their death and the holidays can be terrible times for us. I wish you could tell us that you are thinking of us and them on these days. And if we get quiet and withdrawn, know that we are thinking about them and don't try to coerce us into being cheerful.

• I wish you understood that grief changes people. I am not the same person I was before my beloved died and I will never be that person again. If you keep waiting for me to "get back to my old self" you will stay frustrated. I am a new creature with new thoughts, dreams, aspirations, values and beliefs. Please try to get to know this different me -- I'm the one who'll be here from now on.

How to Help a Friend in Grief

Recognize that everyone grieves at their own pace.

Some progress rather quickly, some move very slowly. We never move at the speed that others think we should. Help us take one day at a time.

Keep us company and be there for us.

You don't need to say anything profound or do anything earthshaking.

Often, your greatest help is your quiet presence and simplest deeds.

Make suggestions and initiate contact and activities.

It is important for you to respect our privacy and give us some time alone,

but we also may not have the energy to structure our lives right after a traumatic loss. We may have to rely on others to think of things that we don't know to ask for.

Provide a safe environment for us to show strong emotions.

It may be very painful, but it can be of enormous help.

Help us remember good things.

Tell us your memories of our loved one as you listen to us tell you ours. If we begin to show our emotions outwardly, you have not upset us,

you have simply enabled us to be a bit more open in your presence.

Be there after the first wave is over.

Make the effort to call, to come by, to help us out six months and even a year down the road. Crowds may be difficult for us. Shopping and holidays will be overwhelming. Offer your help. If we're not up to a visit we'll let you know, but let us know you remember and are there for us.

Listen to us.

We need to tell our story over and over in order to process our grief. We may even say outrageous things. Don't judge us by what we say or how we feel. We have a lot to work through, and in time we will come to the answers that are right for us.

Be careful of clichés, religious platitudes, or easy answers.

You may not be able to help us with certain issues right now, so don't be too quick to share your opinions if we say something you don't agree with. We need time to work things out on our own.

Be sensitive to our needs, be patient, have confidence and believe in us.

We will get better, we will experience healing; but it will take some time,

and it can be rough going for much of the way.

Be on the lookout for destructive behaviors.

Traumatic loss can lead some people into depression, alcohol or drug abuse.

We may need you to keep an eye on us while things are especially tough.

Help us find humorous diversion.

Laughter is good medicine.

Be willing to do difficult things with us.

We may need someone to sit with us in court; we may need a safe place to rage; we may need help with the funeral or afterwards. There may be some hard times ahead and facing them alone can be terrifying.

Help us find ways to bring good things out of the bad.

It is important that our loved one be remembered and memorialized.

Find out about grief.

Read some of the books that are available. The more you know, the better able you will be to help us.

Help us to find support and inspiration.

Often, a poem or song will speak to us in ways that no one else can. Also, talking to someone who has survived a similar loss can help us to realize that we are not alone in our grief.

We have to go through this valley in order to get to the other side.

Dealing with grief cannot be avoided or postponed. Grief can make relationships difficult and you may get frustrated with us or feel uneasy around us. But please remember that now, more than ever, we need the caring and patient support of our friends and family. Help us get through this as well as we are able. Your true friendship and companionship, your kindness and patience can help us get our lives back together.

We will experience some level of grief over our loved one's loss for the rest of our lives. Some days will simply be better than others. One day, we hope to reach a point where our good days outnumber the bad. That will be a major milestone for us.

Thank you for being here for us.

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Dear Tootie,

I'm so very sorry to learn about your best friend's sister-in-law ~ and how good of you to be seeking information on how best to help her through this sad and difficult time.

The articles Kelly suggested are excellent, but since their focus in on helping after a death has happened, I thought you may find this article helpful, too:

Helping a Friend Who Is Dying

by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

Your friend is dying. This is an extremely difficult time not only for you, but for your friend and all who care about him. This article will guide you in ways to help your friend-and yourself-during the last days of his life. Read more . . .

We also should note that How to Help a Friend in Griefwas originally written by Bill Jenkins and is taken from his insightful book, What to Do When the Police Leave: A Guide to the First Days of Traumatic Loss (3rd Edition). We don't know who originally wrote the Wish List; it first appeared on our site in March, 2005 with the author listed as "Unknown."

You'll find links to these and many other relevant resources on our Helping Someone Who's Grieving page.

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That about sums it up. I am putting together some printings of things that i have read that make me feel better. i would like to add what you wrote to my collection. You really hit the nail on the head. Don't tip toe around me. Ask me how I'm doing? Don't expect me to be having a good day because I had to where the fake face today. Let me be where I am today. and please don't say "You look like you are doing ok." I always thought when you attend a funeral service that the statement "You have my condolences" sounds so empty. Now I know why. It's because there really is nothing else that you can say at the time because nothing brings them back.

Thanks again


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thank you all so much for all your help. the part that hit the nail on the head best for me was.....Do not expect me to get over my grief in 6 months. I will forever be going through it for the rest of my life. I will NEVER be the same person I was.

Once again thank you ALL!!!!


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