How to Comfort Someone Who is Grieving the Loss of a Loved One
- January 20, 2021
Losing a loved one is one of the most devastating things one can ever experience in their life. Beyond being faced with intense sadness and pain, the bereaved may also be swept by an overwhelming, tidal wave of intense emotions including anger, guilt, anxiety and depression.
You may feel at a loss for how to offer that person comfort and support, unsure of what to say to them to show your love and sympathy. It can be difficult to understand how to approach the situation. You may be afraid you will say the wrong thing and worsen their pain, or you may feel powerless and think there is simply nothing that you can say or do that will relieve them of their intense grief.
Know that just your simple presence alone and compassion can be incredibly powerful and comforting. Your loved one who is grieving needs your love and support now more than ever. Don’t let your concerns or fears prevent you from being there for them in their time of need. Just being there for the grieving person is one of the most important things you can do for them.
Here are some helpful ideas to learn how to offer comfort and support to your loved one who is grieving.
1. Understand their Grieving Process
Remember, there isn’t one way or a right way to grieve. Every individual’s process and the ways in which they cope through their grief will be unique to them. One’s person’s grief may involve him or her falling into inconsolable pools of tears, crying for hours on end, unable to focus on anything else. Another may become reclusive and silent, shutting down and unable to process or face their emotions. Others may be stricken with guilt while still others may plunge themselves into various activities to distract themselves from their grief. However, their grief process looks like, reassure your loved one that what they are feeling and experiencing is normal and approach them without any judgement.
Beyond everyone’s experience of grief being individual to them, there is no established period of time in which one is supposed to grieve either. Some people will continue to grieve for as long as 2 years or more, while others will seemingly move on more quickly. Again, be understanding of the time it will take for your loved one to heal from their pain, and avoid pressuring them from moving on before they are ready.
2. Know How to Speak to Your Loved One Who is Grieving
As much as you want to be able to offer your loved one a few magic words that will relieve them of their pain, the most important thing you can do for them is to simply be there, with an open heart filled with compassion. And while you are there present for them, listening to them, and acknowledging their grief and feelings without judgement will go far to offer them comfort and support. They need someone who is there for them to confide in and express their feelings to or share stories with and memories of their loved one.
Words of encouragement and compassion that acknowledge the pain they are experiencing will offer solace and support. Examples of things you may say to your loved one are “I am sorry you are suffering,” or “I don’t know what to say, but I’m here for you.” Sometimes, you may not feel you have the words to say, but simply letting them know you are there for them will have a powerful and positive impact. Instead of asking them how you can help, which can be an overwhelming question to someone who is grieving, stating something specific you will do for them to ease their burden will be more effective. For example, you can say that you will help with their laundry or cooking, help clean their place or spend time with them over dinner.
In terms of things you want to avoid saying, trite words or sayings and platitudes that feel empty of real or genuine sentiment will do little to help.
Examples of such sentences are:
“You are so strong” : People who are grieving may feel powerless in their situation. Telling them they are strong may feel dismissive to the pain they need to experience at the moment as they allow themselves to grieve.
“Your loved one is in a better place now.”: Whatever religious beliefs you or the person who is grieving has, they likely would have wanted their loved one to remain with them in their lives. The problem is that they are no longer together, so unfortunately any place that is still away from them will do little to offer comfort to alleviate their pain.
“You will move on from this soon.” : Remember, everyone’s timetable for grieving is different. Avoid words that wil pressure your loved one to move on more quickly or cause them to feel like they have been stuck in their sadness for an abnormally long period of time.
3.Take Direct Actions to Help or Assist Them
Again, instead of asking how you can help, offering specific things that you will do for someone who is grieving will go much further. Those who are grieving may feel too depressed to ask for help or reach out and may fear that they are a nuisance or burden to others. Let them know that they are not an encumbrance, and you are there for them to hopefully ease some weight off their shoulders.
Examples of actions you can take to comfort your loved one who is grieving are shopping for their groceries or running errands for them, making dinner, assisting them in funeral arrangements, tending to their pets or watching their children, joining them for a walk, sharing a hobby, etc.
Losing a loved one can be a heartrending and an intensely painful experience, but knowing people are there by their side to offer unwavering love and compassion will go a long way to help someone who is grieving. Again, your presence alone has such power to offer solace and bring them one step closer to healing and peace.