Grief is a common experience that we will all share, but it is still sometimes difficult to know what to say or do to help a grieving person. We can all learn how to better support each other when grieving.
There are many things you can say to help comfort and support someone who is grieving, including the following:
Acknowledge the loss. “I heard that _________ died.” Know that it is ok to use the word “died”.
Express concern. “How are you doing today?” or “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
Be genuine and honest. “I don’t know what to say, but I just want you to know that I care and I’m here for you.”
Use the loved one’s name. “________” was a good person and a dear friend of mine. I will miss him/her.” Talk or ask openly about the person who died.
Ask how they are feeling. “Please tell me what you’re feeling right now – I have never been through something like this and I am here to listen whenever you are ready.” And then listen without judgment.
Accept silence. “We don’t need to talk about this right now if you don’t want to – just know that I’m here when you need me.”
Let them know they’re not alone. “We all need help at times like this – I’m just a phone call away, anytime.”
Offer your support. “Tell me what I can do for you.”
Encourage additional support if needed. “Have you thought about visiting counseling or Campus Ministry? Many people seek assistance after a loss like this.”
Just be. Do nothing but sit in silence and just be with the person. Give them a hug or hold their hand.
Try to avoid saying things like “At least s/he is in a better place”, “There is a reason for everything”, “God needs him with him”, “I know how you feel”, “Be strong”, and “It has been awhile – you must get over this”. Minimizing or distracting from feelings, attempting to explain or justify the loss, assuming judgment or using your own feelings, or expecting a specific timeframe for grieving are not helpful ways of offering support. Sometimes it simply comes down to just being a good friend.
Content adapted from The Christi Center, 2014.