Chances are you know someone who bereaved, and while your heart may be in the right place, you might be at a loss for words. In fear that you may say the wrong thing or cause more hurt, you avoid them. However, dodging the bereaved may cause more damage to your relationship, so here are five things you can say to those in grief:
1. Become transparent and say, “I can’t imagine your pain. I simply do not know what to say.” While this may seem like an obvious statement, it is sensitive and truthful. Your honesty is appreciated, instead of a meaningless platitude.
2. Share a memory of the loved one. These thoughts can be expressed in person or in writing. If you spent time when the bereaved wasn’t present with their beloved, it is a thoughtful gesture to give them this memory. It is another way for them think about their spouse, child, sibling, friend.
3. Do something for the bereaved. This is an action oriented item. It might be providing child care or helping them clean out a storage unit. No task is too small. Do not hesitate to pitch in and help. Chances are others are standing on the sideline and have not bothered to contribute.
4. Send in a photograph. Passing along a picture is a significant gesture of love. In an age of social media, you may assume the bereaved has viewed all snapshots, but this often is not the case. You can simply say, “I thought you would appreciate this special memory.”
5. Offer to meet them for a meal or bring a meal and sit with the bereaved. After the funeral, meal time can become a stressful situation. Their loved one’s absence becomes especially noticeable during meals. This doesn’t mean that you have to initiate a therapy session, but being present for them is a helpful act.
Grief is an intensely lonely experience, and offering your support aids in the healing process. Do not be afraid to reach out and lend help. It is never too late.
Kristin Meekhof is a speaker, licensed master’s level social worker and author of “A Widow’s Guide to Healing” with cover blurbs from Dr. Deepak Chopra and Maria Shriver. Kristin was a recent panelist that the 2017 Harvard Medical School’s writing and publishing conference. She can be reached via her website.
This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn’t make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grieve differently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let’s talk about living with loss. If you have a story you’d like to share, email us at email@example.com.