a person or pet who passed. Recently the Huffington Post published the following article to help and I'm posting it here to help.
Six Helpful Things You Can Do/Say if Someone You Know Is Grieving:
- Ask, "How are you doing?" Then listen patiently to the answer without changing the subject or terminating the conversation. Create a safe space for them to talk about their experience if they would like to. You might feel honored that they trusted you enough to give an honest answer if it's something other than "Fine."
- Say that you just found out about their loss. Rather than the obligatory "I'm sorry for your loss," or "I'm sorry that your marriage didn't work out for you," try this instead: "I can't imagine what this is like for you," followed by "How are you doing?" Everyone's grief is different. Even if you've experienced loss, you don't know how they feel. Let them tell you about it in their own words.
- Stay away from offering clichés like, "You were lucky to have the time you had," "She's with the angels now," etc. It doesn't help to have you try to rationalize away someone's grief. If you're not sure what to say, go back to tip #2 above.
- "I'd like to help. Would you like me to __________?" Insert specific tasks that you are willing to do that you think might be helpful. You could suggest something like "mow the lawn, walk the dog, watch the baby, sit with you, help you clear the garage," etc. Then show up and do it if the answer is "Yes." Try to avoid the offhand, "Let me know if there is anything I can do for you." No one believes you really mean it and that puts the burden on the griever to think of something for you to do. They don't have the energy for that.
- When someone cries in front of you, all you have to do is stay put and say something in a soothing voice like, "It's OK....let that out....I'm here for you." Comforting them with a touch on the arm or a hug is great too. Just do your best to stay present and don't try to "fix" it. Don't hand them a tissue unless they ask for it. The tears will come to a natural completion of their own accord.
- Do your best to keep your relationship intact. Avoiding a grieving person because it's uncomfortable for you to be with them is hard for them. You can imagine the feelings of isolation they would be feeling if everyone in their lives reacted this way. It's OK to say the name of the person that is gone. It's OK to ask what happened. It's OK to talk about the strangeness of it all. It's even OK to cry in front of them or with them. Your silence and avoidance is what's really painful.
This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn't make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grieve differently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let's talk about living with loss. If you have a story you'd like to share, email us at email@example.com.