Not much has changed in the ten years that I have been writing about grief and loss. There’s still a sense of discomfort in dealing with the bereaved. Friends and loved ones continue to seek the perfect words that will comfort the bereaved. They’ve yet to learn that no one thing that they say or do will make the pain go away.
So what have I learned that may help you comfort your friends and loved ones as they mourn a death? Here are my thoughts:
- Everyone is unique and so is our grief. We all mourn in our way and in our own time.
- Just because you have experienced the death of your mom, dad, sibling, or child doesn’t mean you understand what someone experiencing a similar death is feeling or going through.
- Grief is complicated; our personal experience with relationships and other losses influence how we grieve.
- It’s important not to stay away because you are uncomfortable or fear you’ll say the wrong thing; grief is isolating and if you stay away, the bereaved are even more isolated.
- The bereaved are very sensitive so think carefully before you speak.
- The simplest, safest, and most comforting thing to say is “I am so sorry” with an emphasis on “so.”
- A caring touch on the arm or a hug goes a long way.
- It’s so important to stay in touch by phone or in person.
- All you have to do is say “I’m thinking of you and wanted to check in.”
- One of the best things you can do is attentive listening. Be patient as the bereaved must tell their story over and over again to make sense of it.
- The smallest kindnesses are very meaningful whether it is a card, a handwritten note, a postcard, or a phone call.
- There is no deadline for kindness. The bereaved will appreciate your connection whether it is weeks, months, or even years after a death.
- The very most important thing to do is to continue to be a part of their life; it’s essential not to forget or ignore the bereaved.
- Treat the bereaved the way you would like to be treated; one day it will be you.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.
Image: Flickr Creative Commons / sskennel