Finding the Words: What to Say to Someone Grieving
In the event that a loved one passes away, it’s become commonplace to send cards with phrases such as:
- “I’m so sorry to hear about your loss.”
- “Thinking of you in these difficult times”
- “Our hearts go out to you and your family.”
While cards are thoughtful sentiments, a person can often find difficulty coming up with what to say to a grieving person in conversation. Everyone grieves differently, so finding the words to comfort them during emotional times often begins with listening actively and speaking carefully.
Speak lightly and wisely.
When speaking with the grieving, it’s important to choose your words wisely. Remember: You don’t need to fix their pain, but just be there for them. A few helpful phrases of comfort to offer include:
- I feel your pain.
- I’m here for you.
- I love you.
- When you’re ready to talk I’ll be here.
It’s easy to get sidetracked – when thinking of what to say to someone grieving – and start speaking about your own personal life experiences. Only make comparisons to empathize if it appears to be helping.
It is important to remember that it can be hard for people coping with grief to find the right words to express themselves. Sometimes they just need to sit there. When they are ready, be available to listen. Offer words of validation to let them know they are being heard, such as “I understand your pain.”
Don’t be afraid to bring the deceased up in conversation to promote healthy grieving. Discussing the deceased signals it is okay to express themselves and talk aloud about the person who has passed, rather than feeling it is weighing them down internally. This will also help in the coping and acceptance process as well as allow the individual to feel comfortable sharing memories.
Avoid overused comfort phrases.
Remember to validate a loved one’s grief and to give them time to talk things out. But, at the same time, beware of platitudes and clichés such as “It’ll get better over time.” This can be considered an easy way out from listening and comforting a grieving loved one.
Avoid speaking in time frames. Phrases such as, “It’s been 3 months,” are not helpful because – again – everyone heals differently. The phrase “time heals all wounds” is a common myth about grief.
Overcome distance with technology.
In this day and age, we are fortunate enough to have technologies like Skype and FaceTime available to help us stay in touch with our long-distance loved ones. Try suggesting a conference call with a group of people close to the one in grief. Remember that they can sometimes be unlikely to reach out due to nerves and feelings of vulnerability, so taking initiative will be appreciated.
While it may seem like these efforts aren’t as impactful as they could be, they can potentially mean a lot to someone in pain. On the other hand of the technology spectrum, you can even try sending them some of their favorite things in a gift basket or simply just writing them a letter. Handwritten notes feel more meaningful today among all of the technology at our disposal.
Support is the most important thing one can do in helping their loved ones throughout the grieving process. To learn more about the grief recovery program at Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care, please call us at 1-888-564-3405.
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