Supporting a Grieving Person

HELPING OTHERS THROUGH GRIEF, LOSS, AND BEREAVEMENT

Helping / Supporting Someone Who Is Grieving

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.

What to say to someone who has lost a loved one

It is common to feel awkward when trying to comfort someone who is grieving. Many people do not know what to say or do. The following are suggestions to use as a guide.

  • Acknowledge the situation. Example: "I heard that your_____ died." Use the word "died" That will show that you are more open to talk about how the person really feels.
  • Express your concern. Example: "I'm sorry to hear that this happened to you."
  • Be genuine in your communication and don't hide your feelings. Example: "I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care."
  • Offer your support. Example: "Tell me what I can do for you."
  • Ask how he or she feels, and don't assume you know how the bereaved person feels on any given day.

Source: American Cancer Society

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Replies to This Discussion

Comforting Someone
Go immediately to show your concern and LISTEN with your ears, eyes and heart (actions speak loudly).

Consider taking a copy of this book to the family to guide them in the decisions they will need to make. Having the organized information and checklists to work from during this confusing time relieves an enormous amount of stress. Mark page 229.

Always refer to the deceased by name.

Do what you can to be sure those surviving eat regularly and are taking vitamins (they are likely experiencing significant stress).

Take toilet paper, stress vitamins and tissues to the house (all are used much faster than normal). Quietly leave them with an attached note: 'Just in case you use these as fast as we do when there's a group around.'

Take food, in reusable or disposable plates - or be sure your name and phone number is on the bottom (remember, there is special thoughtfulness in a note taped to the bottom of a plate that needs to be returned to you: 'I will drop by in a few days for a visit. Just save this dish for me.') Then stop over for a visit in a few days after everyone has left; you will be most appreciated.

Go to services and after-service events. (This is far more important than many people realize.)

Make a donation to the suggested charity or one of your own preference. (The charity will send the family an acknowledgment of the gift.)

Whenever you are with family members, mention a fond experience or recollection you have of the deceased (USE the deceased person's name). Then invite the person you are listening to, in a gentle way, to share a favorite memory. This thoughtfulness can be incredibly helpful throughout the grief process and for years to come.

Organize a support network for food, 'a night out' or 'visitors' to help survivors over the coming months.

Mark the deceased's birthday, wedding and death anniversary dates on your calendar and send a memorial donation or a card in subsequent years to family members. This is a deeply appreciated and thoughtful gesture.

If you are concerned with what not to say, consider avoiding giving advice on either how the family should grieve or on why such tragedies occur. The family will appreciate knowing about your feelings, not what you think.

Write out the story of your favorite memories of the deceased and give it to the family. This is good for you and a precious gift to them.

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