I’ve been reminded recently just how challenging and uncomfortable it can be to support people who are grieving. Even after all the learning I’ve done about healing grief, all the practicing what I’ve learned in my own life and all the working with so many others to support them in healing – I still get a little uncomfortable and uncertain.
It’s hard to sit with another person who is in pain. I always feel an intense urge to DO SOMETHING. I want to jump in and somehow make them feel better and hurt less. And I know that I can’t. Not really. I also know that helping them “feel better” in the moment is not necessarily going to benefit them in the long haul – grief is something that has to be moved through as painful as that may be (we get to choose whether we experience clean grief or dirty grief).
I’ve recently experienced the death of a young girl (I’ll call her Sylvia) who touched my life in countless ways. I miss her and grieve for her deeply. I’ve also become a source of support for several of her friends.
In the last few days, a couple of her friends have called me very upset because of things other people had said to them regarding Sylvia’s death and their grief. The statements people have made have NOT been helpful (to say the least) to Sylvia’s friends grieving processes.
Most hurtful statements made to grieving individuals are said with good intentions – people want to help AND they don’t know what to say. In spite of all my years of studying and experience, I know I can still feel awkward, uncomfortable and uncertain about what to say or do.
However, I have found some things to be fairly safe to say – things that likely won’t upset the grieving individual more and that let them know I am there for them.
• “I’m keeping you in my thoughts/heart/prayers.”
• A simple “I love you”
• Honesty is always good – “I don’t know what to say”
• “Let me take care of __________ for you.” (Fill in the blank with something specific – walk the dog, mow the yard, shop for your groceries, clean the house. When one is grieving, it’s often difficult for them to think of how you can help them.)
A hug goes well with any and all of the above. Physical touch and connection is often an overlooked aspect of supporting someone who is grieving. It’s okay to feel awkward, uncomfortable, and uncertain. Just keep it simple, be genuine and love them.