Speak with Care: What to Say in Times of Grief

One of the brutal facts of life is that death is inevitable. It is bound to happen to a co-worker, a relative, a friend, a neighbor, and even to you. In general, our society avoids talking about uncomfortable topics, which includes death and grieving. There’s just something taboo about death because the thought of someone dying is scary. The deep emotional pain associated with someone’s passing is just too difficult to bear.

But this has to change! If someone dear to us loses a loved one, then a little empathy is essential because it goes a long way during this very trying time. Anyone who loses someone special needs support, and we usually show this by dropping by the wake. We sit through the eulogies and listen to funeral songs and poems. But after all the activities, the tendency for most people is we face our grieving friend, and we are just at a total loss for words. At times, words feel insufficient.

Avoid Awkward Pauses

The last thing we all want is to have an awkward pause to make a sad situation even more depressing and stressful. The adage “you say it best when you say nothing at all” doesn’t work all the time. After the cremation services are over, we must have the confidence and courage to face our grieving friend to show and demonstrate our support by carefully choosing our words and saying them out loud.

Think Before Speaking

We also have to be cautious because we don’t want to end up saying the wrong things. Saying things like: “I know how you feel”, “You’ll get over it”, “Move on”, or “I completely understand you” have a tendency to diminish other people’s pain.

Avoid these callous statements like the plague because you really can’t tell how survivors are feeling and you can’t dictate when they should move on. When we are in this kind of situation, it is best to be prepared. Think before you speak, so you will not end up saying something you will regret.

Keep It Short and Meaningful

At the wake or funeral, you have to keep it short because you’re not the only one who is offering condolences. Remember to keep your tone sincere and soothing. Consider the following statements below which are gentle words that show you care.

  • “I am here for you. Call me anytime, I am willing to listen.”

The most important thing after a loss is to find a support group because those who are left behind tend to feel alone and isolated. It is very helpful and encouraging to remind people who are grieving that you are always there no matter what happens. It offers a great source of comfort and strength showing that you will help carry them through the rough times.

  • “I cannot imagine the pain you are going through. I am so sorry for your loss. You shall be in my thoughts and prayers.”

You may not completely understand what your friend is going through, but offering support and a shoulder to cry is of immense help. This shows those who are grieving that they are not alone in their struggle. You share their pain.

  • “You don’t have to be strong right now. You can lean on me, my friend.”

Some people think uttering the words “you are strong” is encouraging. However, this can minimize and invalidate a survivor’s feelings when he or she is feeling anything but strong. Death rocks a person to the core, so crumbling into a heap on the floor is acceptable. It is totally okay for people not to be okay. And, of course, you are there to offer a helping hand if needed.

  • “My favorite memory of your (name of deceased) is when…(state fond experience). I will never forget him/ her.”

Sharing a personal experience you’ve had with the dearly departed is very comforting. It shows their surviving family members that he or she has touched a lot of lives. As the saying goes, the memory of someone who passed away lives on when he or she is remembered. The best way to honor someone is to speak fondly about them.

  • “I will drop by with coffee and brunch next week.”

Giving a definitive statement, instead of general blanket one, is more direct and decisive. Some survivors don’t get out of bed. Some are too shy to make phone calls. However, by telling the survivors you are coming over at a specific time shows that you truly care by performing a concrete act of service. You can bring dinner, help with housework, offer coffee, and the like. Doing this helps ease the stress of their daily chores while they are still struggling to cope and figure out what to do without their loved ones.

Say It With a Heartfelt Hug

It is also best to offer a hug during these tense moments because embracing a person is a very powerful act that offers comfort, peace, and happiness. A hug is a meaningful gift that comes straight from the heart. Your spoken words are just more poignant and sincere when the human touch is involved.

Bottom Line

It is not easy to comfort a person whose family member died, but it is your responsibility as a good friend to acknowledge this loss and offer solace. Remember to be gentle with your words before, during, and after the funeral because “painful” is an understatement when describing losing a loved one. You can also send a sympathy card, flowers, and phone your friend. Often, it is the little things we do that show our sympathies that mean the world to a bereaved family member.

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