Offering condolences and comfort to those who grieve is difficult for many. While you may want to extend comfort and compassion, you may not know how to approach a grieving person. Perhaps you fear you will say or do something that will hurt them, or maybe you feel unequipped to handle the strong emotions that accompany grief.
Though you may feel uncomfortable approaching the bereaved, understand two things: First, if the individual cries or shows emotion, you are not the cause—this is a normal part of the grieving process. Second, most grieving people enjoy talking about their loved one and hearing the stories you have to tell. A good story about the loved one can bring comfort to a grieving individual.
The best thing you can do is to take time to learn about the grieving process. Grieving is a long and difficult path. It does not end when the funeral service is over. Many factors will determine the depth of a person’s grief. While one’s grief may lessen over time, it will never disappear.
The following are some suggestions for offering your condolences. Consider these ideas before approaching a person who has lost a loved one.
- Do not offer advice, even if you have experienced a similar loss. Instead, offer suggestions. Your grieving process is different and what helped you may not necessarily help others.
- Avoid saying, “I know what you are going through,” because you do not.
- Keep your words simple. “I’m sorry for your loss,” can say it all.
- Sometimes words are not enough. A hug or holding a person’s hand can convey concern and sympathy.
- Remember, you can neither take away a person’s grief nor make a person return to the way he or she was before the loss.
- If you choose to write your condolences, do not put it off. You are more likely to effectively convey your sincerity if you write immediately.
- Always mention the deceased by name.
- Offer assistance only if you are prepared to follow through with actions.
— Adapted from an article by Nancy E. Crump, M.S., Certified Grief Counselor
Published | Category: Grief Support.