One of the most challenging parts of death for those left behind may be knowing how to comfort the grieving.
It can be quite a minefield, treading carefully not to offend or hurt. And sometimes you just don’t know what to say.
I had that happen more than once. Here’s what happened one time . . .
When one of my patients died unexpectedly years ago, I went to the viewing.
He was a special needs man whose mother adopted him when he was a child. He was a kind gentle man, and his mother was very proud of all he did.
I really didn’t know what to say, except to express my grief and sadness at her loss. And if it seemed appropriate to express how deeply I would miss him too.
His elderly mother firmly grasped my hand and clung to me. As it turned out, she did all the talking.
And I just held her hand while she talked.
Sometimes words are not necessary. There’s much that can be conveyed by your tone of voice, your eyes, listening, or just being there.
So how can you comfort the grieving beyond what to say in a sympathy card?
Here are some suggestions . . .
♥ First do no harm. This is the first rule of medicine, and a good one when contacting someone who’s grieving.
The bereaved is in pain. And you don’t want to add to it.
Let them lead you in what to say.
How? Well one way is to avoid asking about the death, which can cause them to relive their pain. Instead offer to be available to listen when they want to talk.
If you don’t know what to say, you’re not alone. Just say that. Or that you’re sorry to hear of their loss and are speechless.
People understand not knowing what to say. It’s much easier to not say anything than to try to take back the wrong words . . .or words that can be misinterpreted.
♥ Ask before bringing food. With many people on special diets, it’s hard to know what they can eat.
And while offering comfort food is meant well, many times appetites are touchy during stressful times like grief.
Instead of bringing food automatically, you could ask if they need any. Possibly something might be needed if there’s a large family coming.
Or consider a gift card to their favorite restaurant. Including a takeout menu can be a thoughtful gesture.
♥ Offer to help with something you know how to do.
While helping navigate the maze of forms and bills can be a blessing, it depends upon how close you are to the bereaved, and how private they are. Not everyone will accept help with finances.
But maybe you can make sure they are getting the help they need. A surviving spouse may need help dealing with bills and other paperwork.
There are likely phone calls to be made to inform insurance companies and other businesses of the death.
Does the grass need mowed or the driveway shoveled? Sometimes when one spouse has taken care of these things the remaining is at a loss of what to do.
Or maybe it’s laundry . . .grocery shopping . . .or housework.
♥ Does the bereaved need transportation? A surviving spouse may not want to drive immediately after a death. Or may not be physically able to drive.
Or may just want company while running errands.
♥ Is there someone to answer the phone or make calls? Can you offer?
♥ Before sending flowers or other gifts, consider the family’s culture and religion.
What’s appropriate in one setting may not be in another.
You may need to ask or search online for what’s appropriate. Often the funeral home will know what type of service the family is having.
How about a more lasting gift instead of flowers? A donation to the deceased’s favorite charity can be a lasting memorial.
♥ Share a happy memory of the departed. Writing a note and sharing how he helped you in a particular situation is a lovely gift. It can be cherished and reread by the bereaved.
♥ After the funeral, stay in touch. While everyone reacts to grief differently, no one wants to feel abandoned.
Continuing phone calls or notes can be a blessing to someone who is grieving.
Asking them to join you for coffee . . .lunch . . .or a movie can remind them you still care for them.
♥ Don’t let them down. If you promise something . . .do it. Write it down on your calendar and keep your commitments.
Do you know . . .?
In a study from the 1960s the death of a spouse ranked as the highest lifetime stress.
That study did not look at the death of a child, which many experts feel is as high or greater a stress.
Are you wondering how to help someone with a loss feel special?
Try the tips above for inspiration.
How about taking the “I Am a Gift to the World Challenge” with someone who has a loss?
You both might be inspired. And the lives you change might just be your friend’s — and yours!
May you have a safe caregiving journey . . .good health . . .and happiness,
Caregiving With Purpose
The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not replace information or recommendations from your own physician or other health care provider. This site does not advocate medical or other health-related self-care, and encourages you to obtain advice from your own personal physician or other health care provider.
This web site is not intended to replace medical, financial, legal, or any other professional advice. Please use your own good judgment and consult with your own professionals before applying any ideas found within this website.
I may have a marketing connection to a brand, topic or product listed on this website. Through the use of affiliate links contained herein, I may collect fees from purchases made.