What to say to someone who is grieving a recent loss?
July 12th, 2020
"What do you want on your burger?" There's an anecdote in Sheryl Sandberg + Adam Grant's recent book Option B that describes someone visiting a friend who's experienced a loss, and instead of the open-ended and hard to answer "Let me know if there's anything I can do", insists on bringing food and the only input they're asking for is condiments. Thinking about what your friend might want, enjoy, or need - and putting it in motion without questions asked - is a great way to start showing up.
July 12th, 2020
Be mindful of your own discomfort. Resist any tendency to fix, rationalize or explain the loss. Avoid clichés like “He is in a better place,” or “I know how you feel” or “be strong”.
Be honest, try; “I am so sorry for your loss,” or “ I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in any way I can,” or say nothing, if appropriate give a hug or simply be with the grieving person.
Be willing to be with difficult emotions. Often, our own unexplored fear of grief can lead us to hurrying others along the path of healing. We need to allow for the spectrum of expressions of grief….from the numbness to the wildest and out of control displays.
People in deep grief often find it difficult to articulate what they need. Offer practical support, “I will drop of dinner in Monday,” “I can pick up the kids from school Friday,” “I am great at doing laundry give me your washing and I will do it.”
July 14th, 2020
Don't say I know how you feel. I would just say I am so sorry and convey something about the person who died that you thought was unique or special or a way that the person affected you or something you learned from them. You have to take your cue from the bereaved person. Sometimes they want to talk about the person they've lost and keep them alive in memory and conversation, so if that's the case, provide opportunities for that.
For other people, it feels too painful to talk about that person, so anything you start with, take cues from the bereaved. Perhaps it's just saying, "I'm here if you ever want to talk about them". There's often this fear that if we bring up a person who has died, it will open up a wound for the bereaved. I would err on the side of acknowledging it because that person is thinking about it all the time anyway. Broach the topic in a light and sincere way then let the bereaved person lead. If they close down the conversation, respect that.