It’s a near-impossible task to find the right words to say to someone who is grieving because loss affects each person differently. In truth, there is no one-size-fits-all set of words to say, but this article will guide you through an approach that will turn your worries and concerns into beneficial and positive actions.
“While these guidelines will be helpful, it is important to recognize that helping a grieving friend will not be an easy task. You may have to give more concern, time and love than you ever knew you had. But this effort will be more than worth it. By ‘walking with’ your friend in grief, you are giving one of life’s most precious gifts – yourself.”
One of the most crucial aspects of grieving is your ability to be an active and conscious listener. Your physical presence and desire to listen without judgement are invaluable. Don’t be concerned about what to say. Simply focus on listening to the words that are being shared with you.
Your friend may tell you the same story about the death several times; repetition and re-living events is a common process in the early stages of grief. Each time, pay close attention. Recognize that this repetition is a necessary part of your friend’s healing process. Simply listen and do your best to understand.
Allow your friend to express his or her feelings without fear of being judged, criticised, or backlash. In all cases, you should do your best to create an environment in which they can feel comfortable speaking freely and openly. Learn from your friend rather than instructing or dictating how he or she should respond. Never say, “I understand exactly how you feel.” No, you don’t. Consider your role as someone who “walks with,” not “behind” or “in front of,” the person who is in mourning.
Allow your friend to feel all of his or her hurt, sorrow, and pain at the moment. Enter into your friend’s feelings without ever attempting to take them away. And accept that tears are a natural and appropriate expression of the grief associated with death.
Words, especially clichés, can be excruciatingly painful for a bereaved friend. Clichés are trite, often stereotypical comments that try to minimise loss by offering simplistic solutions to difficult realities, particularly in the case of grief and loss. Comments such as “You’re doing so well,” “Time heals all wounds,” “Think of all you still have to be thankful for,” and “Just be glad he’s no longer in pain” are not constructive. Instead, they cause pain and make a friend’s grief journey more difficult.
Remember that your friend’s grief is unique. No two people will react the same way to the death of a loved one, and nor should we expect them to. While it is possible to discuss similar stages of grief shared by grieving people, everyone is unique and shaped by experiences in their own lives, and this in turn shapes the way we all react to grief.
Be especially patient, because grief manifests itself so differently from person to person. Grief is a lengthy process, so give your friend the space to move at their own pace. Don’t force them to heal on your own timetable. Do not criticise what you deem inappropriate behavior. In addition, while you should encourage personal interaction, don’t force it if your bereaved friend is resistant.
Preparing food, washing clothes, cleaning the house or answering the telephone are just a few of the practical ways of showing you care. And, just as with your presence, this support is needed at the time of the death and in the weeks and months ahead.
Your presence at the funeral is important. As a ritual, the funeral provides an opportunity for you to express your love and concern at this time of need. As you pay tribute to a person who is now passed, you have a chance to support grieving friends and family. At the funeral, a touch of your hand, a look in your eye or even a hug often communicates more than any words could ever say.
Don’t just attend the funeral then disappear. Remain available in the weeks and months to come, as well. Remember that your grieving friend may need you more later on than at the time of the funeral. A brief visit or a telephone call in the days that follow are usually appreciated.
Sympathy cards express your concern, but nothing beats your personal written words. What do you say? Share a favourite memory of the deceased. Describe the unique qualities you admired in him or her. These words are frequently a loving gift to your bereaved friend, words that will be re-read and remembered for years.
Use the deceased person’s name in your personal note or when speaking with your friend. Hearing that name can be reassuring because it confirms that you have not forgotten this special person who was such an important part of your friend’s life.
During special occasions such as holidays and anniversaries, your friend may struggle. These occurrences highlight the absence of the deceased. Respect this pain as a natural part of the grieving process. Take something away from it. Most importantly, never try to alleviate the pain.
Your friend and the deceased’s family may create special traditions to commemorate these occasions. What is your role? Perhaps you can assist in organising such a memorial or attend one if invited.
At Alex Gow Funerals we appreciate that the death of a loved one is a shattering experience. As a result of this death, your friend’s life is under reconstruction. Consider the significance of the loss and be gentle and compassionate in all of your helping efforts.
For more information on grief and loss feel free to visit our website: https://www.alexgowfunerals.com.au/grief-support/