How to Help a Grieving Friend: Three Grief-Healing Conversations
If you have a friend or loved one who has lost someone they love, you’re being called into action to help. Both of you will benefit profoundly from the deep sharing, exploration and communication that can occur when someone is grieving. This is especially true if you’re willing to think outside of the box and go beyond the conventional boundaries of grief discussions.
Your task, if you really want to help your friend, is to take them gently through these three conversations outlined in the next few pages. This process will help your friend experience a powerful healing shift in perspective.
Conversation One: Tell Me Your Story—How Did Your Loved One Die?
Open your heart and listen. Grieving people need to share their experience and tell their story. In our culture, we’re uncomfortable with death. We feel it’s impolite to ask someone the details of how their loved one died or how they feel now.
Yet when you connect your open-heart energy with their loss and listen deeply to their story, you become a healer. A story of painful loss can’t be fully released until it has been fully told. Become the sounding board and listen to it all detail by detail. Eventually, the grieving person needs to surrender this story and change their perspective from “here’s my tragic tale” to “here’s my life-changing experience.” Guiding your friend through the conversations outlined here helps them make that life-changing shift.
To initiate your first healing conversation, call or visit your friend and, with an open heart, ask how it happened. Ask, “What were the final days like? Were you with her when she took her last breath? What did you experience? Have you felt her presence since she crossed over?”
Once you’re able to help them start talking, they’ll pour their heart out to you; it’s a story longing to be shared in all of its painful details.
Every therapist, coach, or healer starts with compassionate questions. People who are grieving need to talk and share their pain. It’s essential to healing. You can become the healing catalyst for this exchange.
Here are some examples of questions to get you started:
- Tell me the story of his death. Was it sudden? How long was he sick?
- Were you with her at the moment of crossing over?
- What was that experience like for you?
- Did you have any premonitions or dreams about this death before it happened?
- Have you had any visits from him or dreams that he was in since his death?
- Tell me about her life. What did you love the most about her? What do you miss the most? Ask your friend to share their best memories.
- What would your departed loved one want you to do now to fulfill your life’s mission here?
- If he were standing here now what would he say to you?
- What would he want you to do with your life and career to move forward?
- What would you say to him?
Conversation Two: Asking the Spirituality Question
“Tell me what you believe in…“
This second healing conversation should happen after your grieving friend has had some time to get her life back to a routine; after the funeral and after the relatives have gone home. Use your intuition to know when it’s time.
When you’re ready to begin, say, “Please tell me what you believe in spiritually. Do you follow a religion or do you have a daily spiritual practice of some kind – and how’s it working for you?”
Ask the grieving person to share the details of their spiritual journey; how they were raised, what they believe in or don’t believe in now, and whether spirituality is a focus of their daily life or not. Ask if they pray or meditate every day and ask them to describe how they do it and what their experience has been with the process. Ask if they feel satisfied with the answers that their current spiritual belief system is providing.
The purpose of this conversation is to unfold the many complex beliefs a person might have to get to the core of their spiritual beliefs—which may be different from the irreligion. There’s a difference between spirituality and religion. Religion is a set of beliefs and rules governed by a church. If the grieving person is already deeply comforted by her church and does not question its beliefs, that’s terrific. Just ask her to explain fully what she believes about where her departed is now. You might be surprised at the answers. If the person cites answers that come from his church but the answers don’t seem fully fleshed out, keep asking questions. Ask lovingly if those religious beliefs resonate as true for him or if he wants to explore other ideas with you.
If they’re not fully satisfied with their church’s answers, it’s time to have an open discussion of the bigger picture of spirituality. When they’re in pain, their most pressing questions are, “Why did this loss happen?” and, “Where is my loved one now?” By helping them explore a broader spiritual (not religious) perspective you can help them find answers that are truly healing.
You’ll probably find that those who don’t believe in any form of spirituality, or anything beyond what they can see and touch, will be in the most pain. They’ll feel that their loved one has simply vanished and that life is meaningless and tragic. Yet this loss is their moment of true spiritual (not religious) awakening. It’s calling them to experience first-hand their own divine nature.
Offer to become your friend’s spiritual exploration companion. Offer to read and discuss books such as Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander; Bridges to Heaven by Sue Frederick; The Conscious Universe by Dean Radin; and My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor.
Having this spiritual conversation with a grieving person will require that you’ve already taken your own personal spiritual journey to look beyond the limits of religion and find your spiritual truth. If not, this is a great opportunity for you to do so.
To help your friend explore this bigger view of spirituality, offer to visit a monastery, ashram, or spiritual center with them. Invite your friend to step beyond their comfort zone and visit Hindu and Buddhist Ashrams, Unity Churches, Science of the Mind Churches, Kabala centers and whatever else they’re willing to try.
The most essential healing piece that you can provide is to teach them to meditate. By quieting their monkey mind, they’ll begin to have a personal daily experience of something greater than the physical world. You can offer to take a meditation class with them to get them started on this path.
Conversation Three: The Reconnection Ritual—Reconnect Them to Their Departed
Invite your friend to do this meditation with you when she’s ready. Explain that it’s most helpful when she’s feeling incomplete about her loved one’s departure and needs answers. It can be done by phone or in person.
We can all learn to access our connection to the higher realms and to our departed loved ones. But it does require the discipline of daily mediation to quiet the monkey mind and tap into our higher consciousness.
Offer to sit with your friend and guide her through a simple ten-minute meditation using mantra (sacred sound) or repetition of the Lord’s Prayer. Tell her to close her eyes and sit comfortably without leaning her head back on anything. Repeat the mantra or prayer out loud. The mantra Om Namah Shivaya is a powerful mantra to use. It means “I bow to divinity.”
After the rhythm of the mantra is established, sit together silently repeating the mantra for ten minutes. Tell her that when she notices her thoughts getting in the way, she should gently bring her focus back to the sacred words.
At the end of ten minutes, tell her to stop repeating the mantra and open her eyes. In this quiet space, ask her to speak directly to her departed – out loud. She can share a happy memory of her departed loved one to call his spirit into the room.
Have her write down any images, ideas, or whispers that come to her during this process – especially when she asks her departed loved one specific questions. Remind her how essential it is that she learn to quiet her thoughts through meditation to receive messages from beyond.
As you both explore your connection to another realm, she will begin to sense her departed loved one trying to comfort and love her from beyond. The more you practice this meditation process, the stronger your connection to the other side will be. And the more powerfully healing this process will become.