At Campion Academy, many of our students and staff are grieving the loss of their friend Timothy. Not only that, but teenagers in general are increasingly struggling with depression, anxiety, and social disconnection. We all want to help uplift our friends in challenging situations, but sometimes we don’t know what to say or what to do for our friends who are going through a crisis of grief or mental health.
Sandy Eickmann, Licensed Professional Counselor, has been volunteering at Campion as a grief counselor over the past few weeks. She shared some important ways that we can support our friends at this time.
1. Listen to them and validate their feelings
“Listening is probably the most important thing you can do,” reflected Mrs. Eickmann. Pay attention to what your friends are going through. “It’s nice to just be there, sit with them and listen. The times in my life where I grieved the most, I don’t remember anything anybody said to encourage me. I do remember some people that cried with me.”
2. Ask what they need and be specific
It is important to know that everyone is different, and each individual needs different support or help. Instead of assuming what they want, ask them specifically what they need. Mrs. Eickmann shared, “If you think you have something that would be meaningful, just ask them if that would be helpful.”
However, Mrs. Eickmann advised, “The questions ‘What do you need?’ or ‘How can I help?’ can often feel too vague and difficult to answer. Sometimes people don’t have a clue what they might need, or they don’t want to ask you because they don’t want to burden you. So, it helps to come up with something specific.”
3. Check in with them
You can remind them that you care by keeping in touch and asking how they are doing. However, for some people, it can be dangerous to overcheck them and not give them space when they need it. “It’s ok to get feedback from people, to say ‘Would you like me to give you a call tomorrow?’ or ‘Do you want to come and hang out with me for a while?’ to see what they want while giving them an option,” said Mrs. Eickmann.
At the same time, she continued, “It needs to come as ‘Do you want to talk about it?’, not as ‘Let’s talk about it,’ or ‘I want to hear about it,’ because some people are not ready to talk about it. Pushing them to talk about it can actually be a problem.”
4. Give them time and freedom
“It’s a process to grieve. It’s important to give them some freedom so that they have some sense of control,” mentioned Mrs. Eickmann. Some people might need their time alone, while others don’t. Know that each individual takes their own time to process. It’s important to think about what you would need if you were in their circumstance.
5. Know that not everyone has the same way to solve problems
Each person will have different reactions to coping with emotional stress. “It’s really important for people to realize and identify what the person is going through,” said Mrs. Eickmann.
Some people take more time than others to overcome their challenges. “It’s very human to compare yourself and someone else, because we do have a lot of things in common, but then there are always those little things that we don’t know about, so we need to be very open-handed,” explained Mrs. Eickmann. You might hurt people’s feelings by telling them about your similar situation from the past when you actually meant to encourage them. Everyone is different and has different ways to grieve.
Airi Nomura, Student News Team