Let's face it. Nobody wants to be in the unfortunate situation of comforting a loved one who is grieving, but it happens to all of us. No matter how much we sympathize with the one who is in such emotional turmoil, it's hard to put yourself in someone else's shoes and guess exactly what they need in the midst of their grief. Here are some things that you can do and say to someone who is grieving that will be appreciated and remembered.
Ask open-ended questions.
Instead of getting too specific and asking questions that will demand your grieving friend to consider things that are unpleasant, ask open-ended questions so that your friend can discuss only what he or she wants to reveal. Be a good listener after you ask the questions, too, by paying close attention to the answers. Some open-ended questions may include the following:
- What kind of afternoon has it been today?
- I'm sorry you're in pain, but I know I can't know exactly how you feel. Would you like to tell me more about it?
- How has this been different than you thought it might be?
- What has been most helpful to you so far, and how can I add to that?
- Would you like to share some of your memories with me?
Kick clichés to the curb.
Yes, it will be very tempting to go to stand-by phrases that are always heaped on grieving families. Don't dare say things such as, "He's in a better place." Maybe the grieving friend will come to that conclusion, but nobody needs to hear someone trying to soften the pain with empty words. It's better to say nothing or simply confess that you don't know what to say instead of using clichés.
Acknowledge all feelings that may come.
Grief can be a very strange thing. A person may be able to laugh hysterically at a happy memory one moment, yet be in hysterical tears the next moment as reality sets in. No matter how your friend is expressing the pain, acknowledge the feelings that come out and accept them.
Be willing to witness pain.
Resist the urge to squirm when emotions run high. Don't try to fix things that can never be fixed. You can't bring someone back to life or give someone one more moment with a loved one who's dead. However, the most important thing that your friend will need is simply your presence. By showing up and continuing to be a source of loving support even when your friend cannot give much back, you are likely being a big help already.
Finally, grief is very personal, and it belongs only to the person who is feeling it. Be sure to follow your friend's lead. If you're not sure what your friend needs, be willing to discuss that, and you can't go wrong. By making a strong effort and showing your support when your friend needs it the most, you are showing that you are true friend in both good and bad times.
For local funeral needs, contact an organization such as Beeman-Patchak Funeral Home.