Help a Grieving Friend

Make a differenceWKHS School Counselor Brianna Abbott wrote this blog piece to the WKHS community.  While it’s written to WKHS it’s applicable to everyone in Worthington and thus I felt like re-blogging it to a larger audience could help others.  The original post can be found along with many other posts at this link.

“The Worthington community is, once again, reeling from a tragic loss.  One of the TWHS seniors, Ambryn Welch, died yesterday and I spent the day over at their school to help support their students and staff during this heart-breaking time.

I have had a lot of time to think and reflect today after watching as the Thomas students and staff grieved together, shared memories with one another, and found the strength to help each other during this crisis.  And I keep circling back to the reality that everything can change so quickly.  In one moment, the biggest problem facing you might be an upcoming test and the next it is how are you supposed to say good-bye to someone you love and care about.  The reality is that life does change fast.  We never fully know what the next moment will bring for ourselves or those around us and that is why it is essential that we make the most of every day, that we remind those we love how much they mean to us, and that we never take for granted the people in our lives.  So I would like to remind each of you how thankful I am that YOU are a part of my life.  I care about you, I wish you never had to grieve the loss of a friend or family member, but I know that is unrealistic so I hope you will always know that there are people (like me) who are here to help support you along the way.

I know that a lot of you didn’t know Ambryn, but you may have friends who are students at Thomas that are grieving or separate from this crisis, you may be facing losses in your life that aren’t well known throughout the whole school, but have touched your heart deeply.  When faced with the news that someone you know has died there are a range of emotions and experiences. If it is a person very close to you, it can be a struggle just putting one foot in front of the next. If you are a friend of the person grieving it can be a time when you feel helpless because the reality is that you cannot take away the hurt and sadness for your friend, but you can help!

Below are a few ideas and reminders about what you can do to help support anyone who is grieving.  Please remember that the most important point is that you can’t “fix” this.  You cannot take away the sadness, but your care and support does matter and it does make a difference!

– Listen! I know it may not feel like much, but that is often what your friend will need the most.

 Say the name of the person who died – don’t be afraid to use their name. Some people worry that if they bring up their name that it would bring up their pain. The reality is that the pain and sadness are always there, but by using the name of the person who died you give your friend permission to talk about him/ her. If you knew the person who died, share some stories or memories you had of him/ her.

– Remember that everyone grieves differently. There is no right or wrong way and no timeline for when they will be “over” their loved ones death. Actually, I don’t think you ever get “over” a death, but you do develop a new sense of “normal” which is far different than the old “normal” (that they would really like to have back.) Remember that it is OK to cry and show emotion.

– Try to remain focused on your friend and their needs. Avoid statements like “I know how you feel” or making comparisons between your past experiences and their present grief. This can be a slippery slope as you may soon be talking all about your past experiences rather than focusing on your friend and how he/ she is doing.

– Be normal. Your friend is still your friend. While in some ways everything in their live feels like it has turned upside down, he/ she is still the same person they were before and will still look for opportunities to be and enjoy their normal activities of the past. Your friend might want to try to return as many things to normal as quickly as possible and that is certainly OK. You do not have to sit around and just be sad. Look to your friend for cues.

– Be realistic with yourself. You know what you can and cannot handle. If it simply too challenging/ emotional for you, particularly because of your past experiences, accept that and do not blame yourself.

– Be there for your friend over time. It is easy to forget that life has changed for your friend forever. Continue to provide him/ her with support over time. This can be by listening and talking, writing a card or note, or other helpful positive outreach days, weeks, or even months from now.

These ideas are in no way a complete list of ways that you can try to help your grieving friend. It is also important that you allow yourself to grieve if this is someone that was important to you. Remember, if you or your friend are struggling with your grief it is important to make sure to communicate with a trusted adult. I hope that you also know that I am here to help now and in the future.
In particular, if you did know Ambryn and are struggling, I want to remind you that the entire Kilbourne staff and in particular all of the Counseling Center team are here for you.  I hope you will stop by and talk to me, I would love to hear the stories of how you knew Ambryn and what you will miss about him… everything I had the chance to hear about him during my time with the TWHS students and staff assures me that I missed out on knowing a really fun and interesting guy.”
– Trent Bowers, Superintendent

The full link for Brianna’s blog:  http://missabbottswkhsblog.blogspot.com/

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