Supporting those in grief will be vital to their healing process. Here are some helpful tips as you seek to provide support and care to a loved one experiencing a loss.
Remember: Ignoring grief is not a response!
What do I do?
· Do acknowledge:
We often find ourselves afraid that we will upset the grieving person by bringing up such a painful experience. However, to err on the side of initiating conversation about the loss that has occurred in your friend’s life is the more human thing to do. If they don’t want to talk about it, they will usually say so.
· Do say “I don’t know what to say”:
You don’t have to have the perfect or most profound thing to say to someone who is grieving. We often hesitate because we don’t know what to say. Just saying “I’m sorry” or “I wish I knew what to say” can be beautiful words to those in grief.
- There are some phrases and clichés that you should probably avoid, such as:
- It wasn't meant to be
- You must be strong
- She lived a good life
- You must move on
- God will never give you more than you can handle
- I understand
- It’s over with. Let’s not deal with it
- Get a hold of yourself
- Pull yourself together
- Be strong for the children
- Get back on the horse again
- It was God’s will
- You can always have other children
- You’re young
- Others have it worse than you
- What did you do wrong?
- God must have needed _______ in heaven
- There is a reason for everything
· Do remember:
Mark the date of your calendar. Remember when the one-month anniversary occurs, and even the six-month anniversary. Remember the holidays. It is natural for one to feel strong emotions on these days, and to often feel alone on these days. Send a note, make a call, show up.
· Do listen:
Listen. Listen. Instead of needing or wanting to say something, offer to listen. “Tell me about your mother.” This is a precious gift you can give to someone. Our stories need to be told and can serve in the healing process
· Do show up:
The ministry of presence is a powerful gift to those who are grieving. Simply sitting beside someone is a reminder that they are not alone. You do not have to say much, just your presence is an act of Christ-like support. And, yes, casseroles and cards are helpful and welcomed… never underestimate these practical gestures.
* A special thanks to Regina Easley-Young, who teaches Death & Dying in the Baylor HHPR department, for her contributions to the information on this page.