Dear Sandra

December 18, 2002

Dear Sandra,

Last week my best friend’s father passed away after a brief fight with cancer. I want to be there for my friend in every way possible, but I don’t know how to deal with the delicate state she is in. She also has two children ages 5 and 7 whom I would like to help comfort. I don’t want to say the wrong thing or make her even sadder; do you have any suggestions as to how I can support her through this time?

Confused Friend

Dear Confused Friend,

Everyone deals with grief in his or her own way. No matter how much preparation one is given, death always comes as a shock to the remaining family members. For close relatives, along with the shock and sadness of death come the mundane and unwelcome tasks of planning a funeral and settling the estate. Many times people are not given the opportunity to grieve until after the funeral.

It is important that you inform your friend that you are there to support her anytime she needs you, whether it be for someone to talk to, childcare, housework or funeral arrangements. Grief-stricken people need to discover that it is not the brave or grown-up thing to do to ignore grief and keep a “brave face”. In fact, buried grief can lead to severe, debilitating problems for years afterward.
For human beings there is a “process” of grief which it is beneficial to understand, because successfully passing through these 5 stages of grief helps you. They are:

· Anger
· Accept that this situation has indeed happened
· Express your emotions as fully as possible, preferably with someone
· Re-adjust your life to the new circumstances that prevail
· Place the old days fondly in your heart, but live the new reality

Try to understand the above and help your friend by explaining it to her.
Children also have a deep need to grieve, and to have someone guide their grieving process. Regrettably, the adults in their lives are also grieving at the time when someone close has passed away, and are not at their best in paying attention to the young ones in their presence.

Help a child talk about and remember the person who passed away, be truthful; never lie to a child; remember special days that effect the child; hug with permission; make a child’s world secure for grieving; and get out the crayons, pens, pencils, paint and chalk (children often express their feelings better in non-verbal ways).

The most important thing to remember is that everyone deals with grief in different ways. Some people cry, some people don’t. Some people withdraw, some people don’t. There is no set standard to grieving and no specific time limit.



This column is for entertainment only. Sandra is not a professional counsellor, but is an AU student who would like to give personal advice about school and life to her peers. Please forward your questions to Sandra care of