What to Say in Times of Grief
By: Rachel Schnebly
November 05, 2012
Almost everyone worries about what to say to those who are grieving. It is a delicate time, and you want to say something comforting. There is also fear of saying the wrong thing. This often leads people to avoid talking about death or mentioning the deceased person. However, those grieving need to feel their loss is acknowledged, and their loved one won’t be forgotten.
Use Caring and Supportive Phrases With the Bereaved
Tell the bereaved that what they’re feeling is okay. Do not give unsought advice, claim to “know” what the person is feeling, or compare your grief to theirs. When searching for something to say try, “I am so sorry for your loss,” “I wish I had the right words, just know I care,” or “We all need help at times like this, I am here for you.” Avoid phrases such as, “I know how you feel,” “She did what she came here to do and it was her time to go,” and “Be strong."
Grief: Simply Listen
As much as we feel the need to say something, sometimes listening is more important. Simply let the bereaved know it’s ok to talk about the loss. Assure them that it’s okay to cry in front of you, get angry, or break down. Ask sensitive questions that invite the bereaved person to express his or her feelings. Don’t press if the bereaved person doesn’t feel like talking. Offer comfort and support with your silent presence. Make eye contact, squeeze their hand, or give a reassuring hug.
Be Aware of Grieving Children
Many times children are forgotten grievers. We expect the surviving parent to help a child with his or her grief, but that parent has his or her own grief to deal with. Children who have lost a loved one don’t openly talk about how they are feeling. A death causes them to feel even more different and isolated than they already do. Talk with the grieving child about what has happened, what it meant and what they thought of it. Help the child put the loss in proper perspective.
Just Do It
A mistake many make is asking people in deep grief how they can help. Mourners are often too lost in their own pain to identify needs. It’s ok to ask; but it is better to just step in and help. Bring over a meal so the bereaved don’t have to cook, but can still eat well. If you are familiar with the bereaved, make specific offers of help such as, taking them on errands, maintaining their yard, or picking up the kids.