Even if you’re close to someone, it can be hard to know what to say when they lose a loved one. That first conversation can be uncomfortable regardless of whether you yourself know what it’s like to lose someone.
Do you say “sorry for your loss?” Should you share a loss you’ve had to make a connection? Or is it best to say nothing at all?
Do Make Them the Focus
The loss of someone makes almost everyone contemplate their own life or recall others they’ve lost. It’s a point of self-reflection that can be very positive. However, that can’t take the focus away from the grieving individual in that moment. Let them talk as little or as much as they want about whatever they want. The real thing that matters is you’re there for them.
Don’t Speak in Nothing But Cliches
When we aren’t sure what to say it’s easy to default to common phrases or sayings. However, speaking in nothing but cliches can come across as disingenuous or impersonal. Condolences are never going to be the same for everyone because the recipient is a unique individual with unique circumstances. Sometimes saying “I’m so sorry,” and letting them direct the conversation is the best option.
Do Keep in Mind Everyone Grieves Differently
The grieving process is very personal. It’s easy to forget that what seems like a normal grieving process for you can be totally different for your best friend or even a sibling. As long as it isn’t adverse to their health, let the person grieve in their own way without any judgement.
Don’t Try to Fix Their Grief
Too often we mistakenly think we need to “fix” a person’s grief. It can come in the form of well-intended advice or jokes to make them smile. Grieving a loss is actually healthy, and can help provide closure after a loved one passes. Light-hearted or constructive comments can also come off as inappropriate since it can feel as if you’re downplaying the loss.
If you want to ease their grief in the moment, recall a fond memory you have of the person who died. Make it a story that showcases the deceased’s personality or how they impacted your life.
Do Say Something
When you don’t know what to say, it may seem like saying nothing is best. Saying nothing can make the grieving person feel isolated or overlooked. Even if you have trouble finding the words to express yourself, uncomfortable condolences are better than none at all.
Don’t Provide a Reason
It’s best to avoid giving reasons for why a death happened, including things like “it was their time” and “it was God’s will.” You may think it’s easing the person’s mind when in reality it could make them feel as if the death is being marginalized or that there’s no reason to grieve because it was meant to be.
Do Offer Specific Help
There are so many things to manage after a death on top of going through the grieving process. It’s a lot of work mentally, emotionally and physically. One of the best things you can do is offer to help in a specific way. Asking for the person to tell you how you can help puts one more task on their plate. However, offering to do something specific takes a task off their plate.
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