It can be tough to know what to say or do when someone you care about is grieving. It’s common to feel helpless, awkward, or unsure. You may be afraid of intruding, saying the wrong thing, or making the person feel even worse. Or maybe you feel there’s little you can do to make things better.
While you can’t take away the pain of the loss, you can provide much-needed comfort and support. There are many ways to help a grieving friend or family member, starting with letting the person know you care.
Don’t let discomfort prevent you from reaching out to someone who is grieving. Now, more than ever, your support is needed. You might not know exactly what to say or what to do, but that’s okay. You don’t need to have answers or give advice. The most important thing you can do for a grieving person is to simply be there. Your support and caring presence will help them cope with the pain and begin to heal.
Here are a few ways to help each other manage the pain of grief:
1.) Accept and acknowledge all feelings. Let the grieving person know that it’s okay to cry in front of you, to get angry, or to break down. Don’t try to reason with them over how they should or shouldn’t feel. The bereaved should feel free to express their feelings, without fear of judgment, argument, or criticism.
2.) Be willing to sit in silence. Don’t press if the grieving person doesn’t feel like talking. You can offer comfort and support with your silent presence. If you can’t think of something to say, just offer eye contact, a squeeze of the hand, or a reassuring hug.
3.) Let the bereaved talk about how their loved one died. People who are grieving may need to tell the story over and over again, sometimes in minute detail. Be patient. Repeating the story is a way of processing and accepting the death. With each retelling, the pain lessens.
4.) Offer comfort and reassurance without minimizing the loss. Tell the bereaved that what they’re feeling is okay. If you’ve gone through a similar loss, share your own experience if you think it would help. However, don’t give unsolicited advice, claim to “know” what the person is feeling, or compare your grief to theirs.
Comments to avoid when comforting those suffering through grief:
1.) "I know how you feel." One can never know how another may feel. You could, instead, ask your friend to tell you how he or she feels.
2.) "It's part of God's plan." This phrase can make people angry and they often respond with, "What plan? Nobody told me about any plan."
3.) "Look at what you have to be thankful for." They know they have things to be thankful for, but right now they are not important.
4.) "He's in a better place now." The bereaved may or may not believe this. Keep your beliefs to yourself unless asked.
5.) "This is behind you now; it's time to get on with your life." Sometimes the bereaved are resistant to getting on with because they feel this means "forgetting" their loved one. In addition, moving on is easier said than done. Grief has a mind of its own and works at its own pace.
6.) Avoid statements that begin with "You should" or "You will." These statements are too directive.
Instead you could begin your comments with: "Have you thought about. . ." or "You might. . ."
Source: American Hospice Foundation
Grieving continues long after the funeral is over and the cards and flowers have stopped. The length of the grieving process varies from person to person. But in general, grief lasts much longer than most people expect. Your bereaved friend or family member may need your support for the rest of their lives.
You can find more information about working through the heartbreak and pain of the loss we have suffered from the source of this post at: http://www.helpguide.org/topics/grief.htm