5 Things to Say to Someone who is Grieving
I was talking to my sisters recently about what it was like to grieve for our father-first when he was diagnosed as being terminally ill and again when his journey with cancer was complete. One thing we all noticed was that some of our friends seemed to distance themselves from us. We discovered later that some of our friends simply did not know what to say to us. I’ve had many grieving clients come through my office since saying the same thing; they have people in their life who want to help but seem to not know how.
If you, like so many people, want to be helpful to a friend or family member who is grieving and aren’t sure how, let me share five options with you.
- I am going to (clean, cook, watch your children, walk your dog) for you. When my dad was first diagnosed, my mother-in-law, after I shared that I felt paralyzed by shock and grief, took me grocery shopping and helped me choose things that could be made into a nutritious meal without much effort or thought. A friend watched my son the night before my dad died and another friend the morning he died. Many people asked how they could help, but either I didn’t want to bother them or my mind was simply too foggy from grief to think of things. It was the very specific offers of help that I accepted. Recently a friend lost a family member and, recalling my own experiences, I simply texted and said, “I’m going to bring you a dinner,” and then discussed a date, time and menu that worked for her family.
- Do you want to talk about him/her? I’ve heard people say that they don’t know whether or not they should talk about the person who has passed. I recommend leaving it up to the person who is grieving. If they say yes, then simply listen, pat them on the back, laugh at the appropriate places, and simply witness their love and pain. If they say no, offer them a distraction from their grief by focusing on something else.
- I remember when…. It is often very comforting to hear stories about a loved one you are grieving. It helps the person experiencing grief to feel closer to their loved one, learn more about them and know that others too remember the one they’ve lost.
- Take all the time you need (to return to work, to get together for dinner, etc.). There is no timeline for grief. If you have the ability to give the person grieving the gift of time, do so.
- I don’t know what to say, but I am here. When all else fails, simply admit you don’t know what to say. This shows that you care and that you want to provide support.
If you or someone you love is struggling to process your grief and feeling “stuck,” please reach out to us using this page or call 573-328-2288 to find a caring therapist who will listen to you, encourage you and help you through the grief process.