What do you say when words are not enough? If you are a friend, coworker, or extended family member of a bereaved person, it’s hard to know how to offer comfort and support during a time of loss. Below are a few helpful ideas to consider as you help your friend heal:
Actions speak louder than words. Offer to help the bereaved in any way you can. You may decide to bring food, help with chores, go shopping, provide child care, or run errands. Sometimes just sitting with a grieving friend and listening is all that is needed.
Avoid clichés and easy answers. Often friends do more harm than good with the words they say. Clichés and religious platitudes such as “God needed her in heaven” and “You’ll have another child” only serve to confuse and anger the bereaved. Instead of trying to minimize the pain and make it go away (which is impossible), simply say, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
Share a memory. Those who grieve a loss are left only with their memories of their loved one. If you have a memory or detail you can share about how the deceased impacted your life, let your friend know. These memories will be cherished and will bring comfort long after they are spoken.
Accept the emotions of the grieving person. You can help your friend by being a safe shoulder to cry on. Allow the emotions of the grieving person to be processed at his or her own pace. Sometimes you may not agree with the emotions of the bereaved. Still, they need to come to answers on their own terms.
Share resources you have found helpful. If you have found a few books, blogs, or websites to be helpful with your own grief, share these with the grieving person. Avoid comparing your own experience to theirs. Instead, let them know how the book or blog has helped you.
Write a condolence card or letter. A condolence note should also avoid clichés, religious platitudes, and anything that tries to minimize the pain of the bereaved. Acknowledge the pain, use the deceased’s name, share a memory, or express your willingness to help. Communicate through your note that they are not alone.
Send flowers or a memorial donation. Your kindness will be remembered long after the flowers fade. Be sure to send a condolence card with your gift.