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How to Comfort a Friend Going Through a Tragedy


If you’ve ever had a friend going through a tragedy, it can be a true test of friendship. One thing that people don’t always realize is that it can be hard for the friend as well as the person going through the tragedy. This is because, as the friend, you tend to feel helpless. You know that there is nothing that can “fix” the problem so there are no easy solutions. It’s important to note that these hard times are vital in friendships, because you see a person’s true colors. You see who is there for you and who makes and effort and who decides you aren’t worth it when you are going through hard times. So, if you want to be there for someone going through a hard time, here are some things to consider.


  1. Do not judge someone’s grief.

There is no set way that people express their grief. Some people isolate, some people ignore it, some people eat chocolate and go through a box of tissues every hour. Respect that everyone consoles themselves differently.

Also, please remember that you do not get to decide what constitutes a tragedy for someone. It could be a death in the family, plans not working out, or a breakup. Regardless of whether or not you think their situation is a tragedy, you need to respect that the situation is hurting your friend. When you take the stance that “well, what you are going through isn’t that big of a deal” then you are undermining their feelings and telling them that their emotions aren’t valid. Imagine if someone said the same thing to you. It would hurt, right? What your friend needs is support, not judgement. You don’t have to validate their feelings, but you shouldn’t judge them for their feelings either.


  1. Listen to them

Sometimes the best thing that you can do is just be there for your friend. Let them talk. Let them cry, yell, vent, anything they need. Grief is so easy to bottle up, but that is when it’s the most dangerous. In contrast, if they don’t want to talk about the situation, don’t pry. Let them talk about it when they feel ready. Just let them know that you are there when they are ready to talk. Also, be willing to listen without giving advice. Logic is sometimes the last thing grieving people are ready to hear. If they ask you for advice, that is one thing, but mostly just be willing to listen without personal input.


  1. Understand that you don’t understand.

Even if you have been through the exact same tragedy, remember that your circumstances, your relationship, your time in life, was different than what your friend is going through. You are not your friend; therefore you will never completely and fully understand how your friend is feeling. It doesn’t mean that you don’t empathize, it just means that your situation does not make you an expert on your friend’s grief. For example, if two siblings were grieving the death of a parent, the same situation could affect them extremely differently. So please be respectful that you can relate to, but not understand what a person is going through.


  1. Finally, only support healthy decisions

When supporting your friend, it is also important only to support healthy decisions. Coping mechanisms vary, but if you see your friend putting themselves in danger, it is also your duty as their friend to protect them from themselves. Don’t let them hurt themselves as an expression of grief. This never solves anything. If you see that a coping mechanism is causing more harm than good and that is becoming a long-term crutch, talk to your friend and encourage them to seek help and counseling. Remember that while you can be there for them, you are not a counselor and you need to know when to step back to make sure your friend heals in the healthiest way possible.


Stay Supportive, Ladies!


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I am adopted from Russia and was raised in West Virginia. I am a double major in English (Writing Concentration) and Musical Theatre. I love art in many different forms be it writing, singing, acting, drawing/painting, or design. I adore fashion and it has helped me become the person that I want to be in life. I am a very open person and love talking to people, so feel free to ask me anything! I am honored to be a part of the Her Campus team and I hope that my writing will bring you a smile. If I'm not in the theater or typing up my version of the great American fashion column, you can always hear me coming from the click of my heels. My advice to all: Stay classy!
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