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As a 17 years old, I have never had to face this unfortunate and sad situation before. My friend's grandad just died, what can I do to support him?


I live in Delhi, India . My friend comes from a Hindu family but is an atheist. His family is not orthodox.

marked as duplicate by Em C, Jess K., sphennings, Crazy Cucumber, avazula Mar 27 '18 at 8:57

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It depends how close you are, but "I'm sorry for your loss", is appropriate, as is "I'll be here if you need me".

Then, if it is not a close friend, back off a bit as this is a time when people are overwhelmed with well-wishers. The first two weeks are hectic and you really don't have time to deal with all the people trying to make you feel better, so it is actually respectful to let the person know that you will be around if you need them, but that you're going to give them their space.

After two weeks, things will slow down and that is when it is appropriate to ask if you can help, if they need anything, and to just check in with them.

Questions like "How are you holding up?" or "Do you need anything?" are appropriate at this time.

The thing about grief is that it takes a while to hit. The time around the death is actually the easiest. You go on auto-pilot and you're in shock. It doesn't sink in right away.

It's the weeks afterward, when everyone has stopped dropping in to express their regrets, after everyone has said "If you need anything...." To be a good friend, step in a few weeks later and lend your support then. That is how you can really help a friend over a very difficult time.

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    the point about support over time is well-made. When my grandfather died, my grandmother said the day after the funeral was the hardest when everyone left and she was alone in the house for the first time. – baldPrussian Mar 23 '18 at 17:23
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    @baldPrussian everyone thinks to be there at the time of the funeral, few think of the time afterwards – user4548 Mar 23 '18 at 17:32
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As teenagers, dealing with loss is incredibly hard. You may have experienced the loss of a pet, but it doesn't compare to losing a grandparent. So you don't really have any experience dealing with this and find yourself saying, "what do I do now?"

Boys tend to keep their feelings bottled up. We don't always like showing them, and we don't want to let people see us cry. So comforting other teenage boys is hard. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  1. Tell NO ONE what he tells you. It may be funny. He may say something that hurts you. At no time can you repeat anything he says.
  2. Be there for him. Sometimes the best thing is a friend who is just there and wants to do something.
  3. He's not wrong. If he starts talking about his grief, don't correct him. Don't try to tell him that he shouldn't feel that way.
  4. This is not the time to talk about a religious faith other than his. (We Christians seem to like doing that, and it really ticks people off.) Acknowledge his belief system and accept that.
  5. Don't push him to talk about how he feels. He's most likely getting enough of that right now. He'll tell you what he feels is appropriate.

As I understand Indian family life (US citizen, so I can only speak from observation), obligation plays a huge part. If there are things that he needs to do, offer to help him. It may be boring or painful for you, but he'll remember for a long time that you helped him with his obligations.

It's both easy and hard to really mess this up. It's hard to mess up, in that merely being there and supportive and trying your best will generally be what's needed. It's easy to mess up if you try to talk him out of it or minimize his pain.

You're trying to do the right thing, and I give you credit for that. Back when i was 17 and lost a grandparent, I don't recall anyone trying anything like what you're doing. So props to you.

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First of all, help or get out of the way.

DO

...say "I'm so sorry your grandpa died."

...ask if there's anything you can do to help.

...be extra nice.

...pay close attention to cultural norms in your social circle.

DON'T

...say "Wow, what happened? Why was he doing that? Didn't somebody tell him not to do that?"

...try to find out how close your friend was with his grandpa / how much grief he's going through. That's because it's more polite to assume that the loss is a real loss, and allow a non-grieving person to volunteer things like "actually I only ever met him twice."

...make jokes about it.

...feel bad that it's never happened to you: the friend who is trying to help is YOU, not someone else.

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Instead of asking "How can I help?" please consider ways you could help and suggest it. For example, you might ask:

  • What errands can I run for you or your family? For example, what do you need to be picked up or delivered?
  • What help can I give to help your family thank or notify others? For example, can I address envelopes or make phone calls? Pick up mail? Sort bills or mail?
  • What help can I give to get your grandparent's home in order? For example, can I help you sort belongings such as books, music, photos, or clothing? Can I help clean rooms by vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, or even washing walls and windows?

In my experience, it puts a lot of burden on someone to ask "How can I help"; it's much better for them and for you to suggest specific ways you might help because that triggers ideas.

Given the ubiquitousness of cell phones, it's possible that he has voice mails from his grandparent. Working with your friend to save those voicemails could be very supportive.

When all other ideas have failed me, I print and laminate the obituary so it can be carried in a wallet or used as a bookmark.

I don't know how these ideas would work in India, but I am hopeful that the ideas have universal aspects that will inspire you and help you bring solace to your friend.

  • Very good point on the specificity of the way to help. It also shows that you're not asking just as a formality, but you want to provide substantial help. – LinuxBlanket Mar 24 '18 at 7:46
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Even elders try to put up a strong face but they might be fragile inside. And your friend is still is teenager. These are the things you can do to support him.

  • Stay by his side, always and whenever possible.
  • Don't say anything. Only listen to him.
  • Lend a hand in the chores. Rituals are those times when even one extra person helping would make a lot of difference. Do what is in your limits. When you are at the place, and you start helping, people will notice you and engage you more. This way you can lessen the burden on him or you can both share the work.

  • Eat along with him at least for one meal of the day, ask if you can stay for that night.

Most importantly, just be with him. That would mean a lot to him.

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