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How to Help a Friend Who Is Grieving

Grief is uncomfortable. It is foreign. It is an ill-fitting garment that pinches you in all the wrong places. You can feel like you've shed it for a while, and then it can unexpectedly wrap you up like an unwanted sweater in July.
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When my dad suddenly died in 2010, I felt enveloped in support from friends and family during those horrible days following his death. The words, the hugs, the letting me sob on their shoulders -- it was all incredibly appreciated.

I walked in a heavy, sad fog those days. But I felt like love radiated from my friends and family and powered me through each difficult milestone. The writing of the eulogy. The wake. The funeral. The gathering afterwards in which I drank too much wine, so I could just for a moment forget why all my loved ones were together for the first time since my wedding.

Then it was over. I flew home to my kids. And life went on.

There was still laundry to do. Kids to care for. Dishes in the sink. A messy house to pick up. Mouths to feed. Work to do.

And I had no energy to deal with any of it.

The entire world didn't stop just because my own world had crumbled. But I didn't know how to exist in a world where my dad didn't. I was expected to keep living. But I was experiencing grief in a way I never had before, and it was crippling.

I was sinking. Fast.

Then some angels swooped in. Angels who knew I needed their help most right then.

One group of my friends cooked for my family for weeks so I didn't have to think about dinners.

My babysitter did the kids' laundry for me. Not a regular part of her job. She just quietly did it.

Another friend who lost a family member listened to me talk, cry, rage about my feelings, even though it likely brought back difficult memories for her. But she understood what I needed because she had been through it.

Others simply asked, "What do you need? Really?" and listened to the answer. They let me talk. Or watched the kids so I could be alone for a little while. Or they kept me company when being alone was too overwhelming.

It was just a small group of people, but this small group understood that I needed their help the most in the weeks and months following my dad's death. And they were there.

Grief is uncomfortable. It is foreign. It is an ill-fitting garment that pinches you in all the wrong places. You can feel like you've shed it for a while, and then it can unexpectedly wrap you up like an unwanted sweater in July.

And because of this, it's hard to be around a person who is grieving. You don't know when she's going to break down and start sobbing while watching Chris Matthews, because he looks a little like her dad. Or because football season started, and her dad's not there for it. Or because it's Tuesday. And Tuesday is just another dad without her dad.

Yes, being around the grieving is hard for anyone. But that's how you help a grieving friend. You suck up your own uncomfortable feelings and you are there for her. You are around.

As my wise friend Nicole said to me, just because you are uneasy with your own inability to fix your friend's pain, does not mean you avoid her and tell yourself you're letting her sort things out.

Be there for her.

Ask her what she needs and listen to the answer.

Bring a nice set of hankies and hug your friend. Let her talk. Let her cry. Just sit there and keep her company. Whatever she wants, do it.

Help her fuddle through her new normal, a world without her loved one. Help her by simply being around.

She will never forget it.

For more on death and dying, click here.

For more by JD Bailey, click here.

My sweet friend Courtney recently lost her husband, Scott, to cancer. During the months Scott was fighting the cancer, Courtney's love, faith, and optimism was incredible. I was truly in awe of her and prayed that the aggressive cancer would somehow abate.

Scott fought hard, but cancer claimed his life just eight months after he was diagnosed. Not only is Courtney dealing with immense grief, but she is dealing with medical, funeral, and other massive expenses.

A group of bloggers, including me, put together a Give Forward campaign to help Courtney. We are hoping to alleviate $25,000 of her expenses so she can grieve, start to heal, and care for her children, without the stress of huge bills hanging over her. If you are interested in helping, please visit Courtney's Give Forward page.