I have a friend who is a Marine stationed here in DC… he just found out yesterday that his best friend was killed in Iraq. I am at a total loss for how to help him through this… anyone out there have experience with this sort of thing?
You go for drinks or coffee and you let him tell stories about the guy. And you don’t mention if the stories grow with the telling.
I don’t have any real expertise (although my parents are grief counsellors), but I reckon you should make it clear that you are available to listen. Nothing you can say or do can make it ok. But maybe he wants someone to hear about stuff - the good stuff that’s gone, anger at the world or specific people, (un)justified sacrifice, whatever. Make it clear that you’re not about to debate whether what he feels is reasonable. Just be available to hear what he needs to say (if anything - maybe he needs to sit silently with a friend). If he asks your opinion, be honest but diplomatic. Don’t push him to make sense of this. Don’t pretend you understand how he feels. Tell him you don’t know what to say, but you’re prepared to listen. And be aware that these things take time to scar, and that they never heal.
I’ve told him that he can call me anytime–I don’t care if it is 4am–and I am here to listen if he needs to talk.
Do you think he would want to talk about the guy? Or would that be more painful? I mean should I ask him to tell me about the guy? Or just shut up and let him talk to me about what he wants to talk to me about? He may not know that I would want to hear about his friend, so I’d want to make sure he knew he could talk about it…
ARG! I hate hate hate when I can’t fix things! I want to make it all better!
I don’t know if there’s a right answer, but here’s a working class guy’s perspective: If a guy wants to talk about something, he’ll bring it up. If a guy doesn’t want to talk about something, he won’t bring it up. So, until your friend starts a conversation about this topic, it never happened as far as you’re concerned. Once he starts the conversation, you can jump in and be more of a traditional friend.
What you can do is keep your friend busy with mindless activities like going to the movies and stuff like that. If you can give your friend a few hours in the day when he doesn’t have to worry about it or talk about it, you’ll be the best friend on the planet.
What you shouldn’t do is make your friend “throw a dinner party,” or force him to run around and try to make everyone else feel good about themselves…
Are you OK?
Are you OK?
Are you OK?
Are you sure you’re OK?
Please call me if you need anything.
Are you sure you’re OK?
Ugh. I know people mean well, but that’s cruel.
You should let him talk about what he wants to talk about. If he wants to talk about the guy,. he will and it will be both painful and cathartic.
Telling the stories takes his mind off the painful present and cements the better, more pleasant memories. The loss is still there, but it is tempered.
I just realized it was the infamous OpalCat. To sum up, you should:
- Let him tell stories about the guy
- Don’t mention if the story grows with the telling
Opal, if it were me, I’d give him a hug.
...and listen. ...and all the stuff everyone else has suggested.
But I know what you mean, it sucks when you can’t make everything better.
I talked with him for about 4 hours last night… until about 1:30am. We talked about his friend, his family, war in general… he cried a lot, which I told him was fine, healthy, and to be expected, but which he seems to think makes him “weak” or whatever. Then we also talked about a lot of other things–Costa Rica, movies, sex, anything–and I think he was feeling better, if only for the time being, by the time we got off the phone. I hope that he at least got his mind off of it long enough to get some sleep. No doubt we will be talking about this more. I just hope that I can help him. He doesn’t really have anyone close around here… his two other really close friends are far away–one still in Iraq and one in Phoenix. He has only been here in the DC area for about 6 weeks and hasn’t really bonded much with the Marines where he lives yet.
Sounds to me like you are doing the best thing for him. If it were me in his shoes, I’d want to talk about the guy, and yes, it would hurt, but you gotta do it. Tell him to try to start trying to fight SOME the brainwashing the Marines do (and I do mean that in a nice way, my own brain is well washed). It is NOT weak to cry in cases like this. It is the way we get through things. It would be like working out and not sweating. You can do it for a while, but it ain’t healthy, and could really mess a guy up. But you don’t wanna sweat all over yourself at inspections, or at the Ball. Grieving is best done in a controlled environment for Marines, and you are providing that environment.
He said he found it easier to talk over the phone, and that he didn’t think he’d be able to talk about it with me in person. I think that is sad