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What Do I Say to Those Who Are Grieving?

Published by Chapster on 2005/3/30 (23765 reads)
We often feel powerless to help those we love when they are grieving. Here's some tips that may help...

What Do I Say To Those Who Are Grieving?
KEOM & ElderHope
Recorded at the KEOM Studios
March 24, 2004

Q:So, Mike, what are we taking about today?

A: Today, I thought we’d give the listeners some ideas, some words to say, for those who are grieving. My twelve year old son recently told me about an adult in his world who has lest someone very dear. I encouraged him to say something to her, something that would be comforting. He said, “Well, Dad, I don’t know what to say.” We hear these words echoed a lot. The experience of standing by someone who is grieving leaves us feeling awkward. We don’t have words that seem adequate for such an occasion. And, indeed, there are rarely words that convey all that we would like to say. Certainly, there’s nothing that we can say that will “make it better.” But, our words, if sincere, can be a source of comfort. People often tell me of the support they receive from colleagues at work and their family at home.

Q: So, what are some things that we can say?

A: The best thing to say is to simply acknowledge that our friend or loved one has suffered a loss, and to express our sadness or sorrow at the pain that they are going through. It might be something like this: “Mildred, I just heard about the death of your brother. I can’t imagine how much this may hurt. I’m so sorry for your loss.” These words acknowledge the loss, recognize that the emotional impact of the loss may be enormous, and express our own pain at seeing a friend who is hurting.

Q: What are some things to avoid?

A: In one of our seminars, we have a whole laundry list of things that people say that are inappropriate. Suffice it to say that the focus should be on the experience of the Griever, and his or her pain. We often err when we stray from their experience of the grief. Sometimes we say things that reflect our experience of how we feel another should be grieving. These things may indicate that we feel their grief is abnormal, that it is taking too long, that it doesn’t fit our understanding of some religious viewpoint, or that the intensity of their grief is out of place. It isn’t. Our words are most helpful if they invite the other person to express their feelings and experiences surrounding their loss. Indeed, they are greatly helped by talking about their deceased loved one and by talking about the way he or she died. These things help them process their understanding of what they have been through.

Q: What other things can be done to help others in grief?

A: There are several things. First, let them know that you are there for them. Consider offering to bring them a meal at an appointed time. Don’t just see if they’d like one, go ahead and offer to bring them “all the fixins” on a certain evening. Also, encourage them to tell the stories that speak to tem, that resonate for them. They should be affirmed that their feelings are natural: guilt, anger, fear, loneliness, all of these feelings are part of a normal grief experience. Affirm that they are not going crazy. Additionally, they should not be encouraged to “medicate” their feelings. Unless they are receiving specific guidance from a physician knowledgeable about what they are going through, medications often dull the grief experience. It can hinder much of the subconscious processing that needs to be done at this time. And, finally, don’t abandon them after three months. They need to be contacted and told that they are thought of and loved. Even then, and often even more months after the death, they will need to be talking.

Tags: loss   grief   bereavement   sorrow   intervention  

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