- Posted by Jon Harju
- On October 30, 2019
Many of us don’t know how to talk about grief. We can feel uncomfortable and afraid during that first conversation with someone who has lost a loved one – and, at the same time feel the desperate need to remove the person’s pain.
Often, we end up saying nothing at all.
But, acknowledging your friend, colleague or family member’s loss is perhaps the one thing they need right now.
Rob Delaney, actor and a bereaved parent explains why he talked openly about the death of his son. “I just want other bereaved parents, and siblings to feel seen/heard/respected/loved. And maybe they might help someone not schooled in grief, support a friend better.”
6 ways you can have a supportive conversation with someone who is grieving:
1. Simple words can mean a lot
People appreciate sincerity and honesty. Sometimes there are simply no words to properly express your concern and support. A few ideas to start the conversation:
- Be upfront and share that you don’t know what to say right now.
- The tried and tested, “I’m sorry for your loss,” is the easiest thing to say and acknowledges their loss.
- Instead of asking them: “how are you?” which can be difficult for the person to answer, try: “How are you today?” This recognizes they are currently living day-by-day.
2. Truly listen
Everybody experiences grief differently. But for some, talking about the person who died and their happy memories can help them cope with their loss. When they talk about the person, don’t try to change the subject, listen to what they have to say.
3. Show compassion
Grief is painful and it’s important to acknowledge this. A genuine show of compassion can make a world of difference to someone grieving. Tell them that you care and offer help such as taking their dog for a walk, preparing freezer meals, and running some much-needed errands for them.
4. Let them express their emotions
Try to create a space where your friend or family member feels safe and can show their feelings. Their emotions may range from sadness to unexpected anger. Respect how they feel and comfort without any judgement.
5. Be Present
They may want to talk, cry, sit quietly, or they may want to be distracted and take a break from their grief for a while. It can be difficult to make decisions when grieving, so it can be helpful when someone else takes the lead. Don’t be afraid to suggest things to do, such as going out for a coffee, a walk, or heading to the movies. Support them by being present.
6. Suggest an activity
There may be particular times that are difficult for your bereaved friend or family member. Perhaps they’re busy and distracted at work during the week but find the evenings and weekends lonely and difficult. Offer to meet up wherever is most comfortable for them provide them the support and reassurance of having company.
Grief affects everyone
Just as every relationship we have is unique, the same is true for how we experience grief. It can be isolating and people often naturally withdraw from social situations. It’s important to reach out and show up so you’re there for your friend, colleague or family member, in the way they need it most.
“I tell people, I’m a balloon that is filled almost to the point of bursting, and when you bring up my dead son, it’s like you’ve let a little out. It’s like a gift,” – Rob Delaney
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