What Do You Say to Someone Who is Grieving?

What to say to someone who is grieving

What Do You Say to Someone Who is Grieving?

Grief isn’t something that we deal with every day. Most of us have experienced a loss of some kind in our lives. Sometimes others have said something to us that we did not appreciate in our pain and suffering. We know they mean well but sometimes the griever ends up comforting the other person through their uncomfortable moments. Most of us are at a loss for words and feel uncomfortable. This is a normal reaction to grief and loss. Most of us have not learned how to communicate at this level of emotional upheaval.

What do we do when we are face to face with someone who is experiencing a great loss? What do we do when we realize how inadequately we can relate to the person’s pain and suffering? How do we talk to or give comfort to someone who is experiencing the pain and suffering of a loss?

Here are 7 things to remember when you are sitting with someone who is grieving:

  1. Know when to speak and when to sit quietly with the person’s pain.

    We can communicate great compassion and comfort with our eyes and our presence without thinking we need to say something to make this suffering better. Just sitting with someone speaks volumes of love and support.

  2. Be willing to wait with genuine concern and comfort for the griever to start to talk about what they are experiencing.

    Be attentive to what they are saying, encourage them to speak more about what they are feeling and thinking, and use active listening to understand their needs (what is their whole-body language telling you they need).

  3. Ask prompting statements when they are ready to talk.

    You can gain more information to help the person process what they are experiencing by using statements such as “tell me more about that” or “Give me some more background”. Then sit quietly until they are ready to give you more.

  4. Remember that you will not be able to fix this for them.

    You will not have the right answer to give them. Be willing to support their needs, make sure that they are drinking water, warm, and physically comfortable. This can speak volumes of love to someone who cannot grasp the enormity of what they are processing at the moment.

  5. Put yourself in their shoes.

    What would you need or want to hear in those moments? How would you like to be treated if you lost someone important to you? Being able to empathize with the person’s loss can help us understand what to say or when to say it. Use empathetic statements such as “I think you are needing?” or “I hear you saying that you are feeling…”? or “I sense that you may be feeling…”?

  6. Be yourself! Be authentic!

    The person that is feeling the loss needs to know that you are in a place of normal, a place of hope, and a place of trust that life will be ok in the future. Being yourself can convey these messages just by you sitting with them and allowing them to start to tell you their loss story. It is ok to laugh and find reasons for hope when you are with someone who is going through grief.

  7. Ask questions when the person starts to talk about the loss.

    Do not avoid talking about it. This helps us move through denial into accepting the loss.

Remember that you are enough! Just be yourself and sit with someone who is suffering. You can make a huge difference in their grief by being you. Laugh together, cry together, sit together, remember together. This is powerful to someone who is suffering. The message you are conveying is, “you are not alone in your pain”. That is enough.

Written by Kimberly Talmey

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