Question: My friend is grieving and pushing me away, why is this happening?
Everyone responds to grief differently. The way your friend responds to grief may not mirror yours. Their reaction may leave you feeling frustrated, angry and confused. There are many reasons why your friend may withdraw from you as they begin to adjust and process her loss.
Some common reasons why she may reject you as they grieve could be, she:
- Has not accepted her loss
- Is confused about her feeling and emotions
- Feels overwhelmed
- Is feeling guilty or ashamed about her loss
- Probably not ready to let you in
How Should I Help A Grieving Friend?
While we all wish we had the secret formula to reconnecting with our friends after they have pushed us away, rest assured that this grief reaction won’t last forever. Before you know it, they’ll be asking why there isn’t anyone around to help them through this difficult period.
There are many different stages of grief that most people go through after they have lost a loved one. They’ll experience:
- Denial: Living in denial and unable to accept the loss of her loved one
- Anger: Being angry at the doctors for not being able to save her loved one
- Negotiation: Negotiating with God for letting her loved one live another day and she’ll promise to do good for the rest of her life.
- Depression: After accepting the loss of her loved one, she’ll start to feel depressed.
- Acceptance: Accepting the loss of her loved one and understanding that her loved one will never come back. She starts to move on and fully recover during this phase.
In the early stages of grief, you’ll find it more challenging to connect with your friend as she may not be ready. She may even feel that you don’t understand her grief. But as time passes, those feeling of sadness begin to fade away and she should start to feel better.
Here are some ways you can help your grieving friend:
- Acknowledging her loss
- Be patient with her
- Letting your friend have time alone
- Asking your friend how you can help
- Seek grief counseling
- Give your friend reassurance
Acknowledge Her Loss
One of the toughest things you’ll have to do is to remove yourself from your friend’s grief equation. It is human nature to want to insert yourself into your friend’s grief experience, so that you can understand and help them with what they’re going through.
But more often than not, all they actually need is for you to acknowledge the loss they’ve suffered, without having any expectations or attempts to make things better for them.
If your friend is dealing with a significant loss, there is rarely anything you can do or say to make them feel better. Take a step back and allow her to go through whatever she needs to feel or experience as a result of her loss.
Be Patient With Her
The capacity for your grieving friend to be present in the friendship diminishes after she has suffered a significant loss. She will likely be emotionally unavailable so you’ll need to be patient with her.
Depending on the significance of your friend’s loss, you may need to hang in there a little longer for them to return – bearing in mind that grief has no expiration date. Even if they do come back, they may be back as an entirely different person as compared to before. Only time will tell the effect of grief on your friendship.
Letting Your Friend Have Time Alone
Your friend may benefit from having time away from their usual role and responsibilities. They may not want to deal with the added pressure of being a true friend and to hear about the happenings of your daily life. During this period, you may want to consider spending some time with another group of friends.
By doing so, you’re actually doing both of you a favor. Try spending some time with your other group of friends or your family, taking up a new hobby and finding ways to meet your social needs while letting your friend deal with her grief.
Ask Your Friend How You Can Help
Different people react to grief differently, and it can be difficult to know what your friend wants or need from you. You may think that you’re doing everything she wants or need by being there for her. But from her perspective, your actions may translate to being in her space, not allowing her to experience grief on her own terms. To keep yourself from guessing, it might be a good idea to ask her exactly what she needs or what you could do to make her feel better.
Seek Grief Counseling
Denial plays a significant role in how we grieve and is part of the normal grieving process. Your friend who has just experienced a significant loss may not be ready to confront their loss. It could be that she is in denial over her loved one’s death.
As there are many emotional reactions that come into play when grieving, your friend may be struggling to understand her loss.
Very often, this denial of grief is harmful in many ways. Your friend may exhibit signs of anger and frustration directed towards you or other family members. She may recognize these unsettling emotions but not know how to respond to them healthily. As such, a seeking the help of a grief counselor will help your friend pinpoint specific grief triggers that may help them with dealing with their emotions.
Give Your Friend Reassurance
Give your friend the reassurance that it is okay for her to not know how she feels during grief. Grief is a challenging process and if you’ve not experienced it before, it is difficult to give her any advice.
Reassure her that together, you two will be able to get through this setback despite how rough things may get. The grief process isn’t easy or quick to get through. The first step for your friend is for her to learn how she can heal her grieving heart.
How To Cope When Your Friend Pushes You Away?
The strain of grief on a relationship between friends can be challenging and hard endure. In the event you’re put in a situation where you need the support of your grieving friend, you may feel the added weight of their emotional wellbeing on your shoulders.
This is then a good time to remind yourself that your friend’s grief reaction are not in your control. Only she can work through her own feelings of sadness and sorrow in a way that make sense to her. When she pushes you away, it just a sign that she is having trouble coping with her loss.
During this period, focus on yourself. Choose to spend time alone or with other group of friends. In time to come, your friendship with her will resume its ordinary course.