Losing someone we love is one of the most difficult experiences we can face in life. When someone we care about is grieving, it can be hard to know what to say or do to support them. Often, we default to saying things like "I'm sorry for your loss" and "Let me know if you need anything," but these phrases may not offer the comfort and support the person truly needs.
Grief is a personal journey that can last far beyond the funeral or memorial service. The bereaved person may feel a range of emotions, and as someone who wants to support them, it's important to listen and validate their feelings without judgment or pressure to "move on."
It's important to avoid saying things that may minimize the person's pain or dismiss their emotions. Saying "They're in a better place now" or "At least they lived a long life" may be well-intentioned, but can actually hurt the person more. Similarly, saying "I know how you feel" can feel dismissive of their unique experience.
So what can you say or do to truly support someone who is grieving? Here are a few ideas:
"I'm here for you." This simple phrase lets the person know that you are available to listen and offer support whenever they need it.
"I don't know what to say, but I want you to know I care." Sometimes, there are no words that can ease the pain of grief. But acknowledging your care and concern can be a comfort in itself.
"Can I bring you dinner/run errands for you/do laundry?" Offer specific ways you can help, taking the burden of decision-making off the person and showing them that you are willing to take action to support them.
"I remember when..." Sharing memories of the person who has passed can be a meaningful way to honor their life and offer comfort to the bereaved.
"How are you feeling today?" Ask the person about their emotions in the present moment. This allows them to express their feelings without feeling pressured to give a broad overview of their grief.
"I'm thinking of you." A simple message of support can go a long way in letting the person know they are not alone.
It's also important to remember that everyone grieves differently, and some people may want to talk about their loved one constantly while others may need space and time alone. As a supporter, it's important to respect the person's individual needs and preferences.
If you're unsure of what to say or do, simply being present and listening can be a powerful form of support. Avoid the temptation to offer unsolicited advice or try to fix the person's grief. Grief is a process that cannot be rushed or fixed, but your support can offer comfort and hope in the midst of darkness.
In summary, supporting someone who is grieving can feel challenging, but even small acts of kindness can make a big difference. Whether it's sending a text message to check in, bringing over a home-cooked meal, or simply sitting with the person in silence, your support can offer a light of hope in the midst of darkness. Remember to be patient, kind, and understanding, and most importantly, let the person know that they are not alone.