Supporting someone that is suffering from grief or the loss of a loved one can be very confusing and tough. You may be afraid of intruding, saying the wrong thing, or making the person feel even worse. Or maybe you feel there’s little you can do to make things better. Don’t let discomfort prevent you from reaching out to someone who is grieving. Here are some tips to help you provide the best support that you can:
What to do:
- Acknowledge the situation: “I heard that your_____ died.” Use the word “died” That will show that you are more open to talk about how the person really feels.
- Express your concern: “I’m sorry to hear that this happened to you.”
- Ask how he or she feels, and don’t assume you know how the bereaved person feels on any given day.
- I know how you feel.” One can never know how another may feel. You could, instead, ask your friend to tell you how he or she feels.
- “He’s in a better place now.” The bereaved may or may not believe this. Keep your beliefs to yourself unless asked.
- Be genuine in your communication and don’t hide your feelings: “I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care.”
- Offer your support: ”Tell me what I can do for you.”
What NOT to do:
- Don’t force someone to publicly mourn if he or she doesn’t want to.
- Don’t give false or confusing messages, like “Grandma is sleeping now.”
- Don’t tell someone to stop crying because others might get upset.
- Don’t try to shield a child from the loss. Children pick up on much more than adults realize. Including them in the grieving process will help them adapt and heal.
- Don’t stifle your tears; By crying in front of others, you send the message that it’s okay for him or her to express feelings, too.
- Don’t turn your child into your personal confidante. Rely on another adult or a support group instead.
If a grieving friend or family member talks about suicide, get professional help right away. IN A LIFE-THREATENING EMERGENCY, CALL 911.