What Your Grieving Friends Need From You

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
By Abbey Agresta

For me, it started around the same time the first of my friends got married. Some friends were losing their parents, mostly to cancer and a few other illnesses. There weren't as many funerals as weddings, but there were enough to make me think about how I was dealing with my friends’ grief. Not very well, I felt.

Every time, I would be overwhelmed by what they had lost — and also how little I could do to fix it. I would pull back for fear of imposing on them, and then worry I was abandoning them when they needed help the most. I got some etiquette tips, but somehow those didn’t seem to cover it. Who knows what etiquette still applies for our generation anyway?

Then, just before Christmas, my brilliant, complicated, and utterly irreplaceable father went into the hospital. He was eventually diagnosed with a very rare and fast-moving cancer and died two days into 2015. The entire course of his illness took less than three weeks. I’m still struggling, still trying to grasp what it means to go through the world without his love and his confidence at my back. But, I have been lucky that my many of my friends have been able to reach through my grief and bewilderment.

Not all of them can, and I can see they are sorry and unsure how to express it, not wanting to burden me with their feelings about my loss. This guide is for them, because no one tells us how to do this. We’re all amateurs at grief.

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