6 Tips for Speaking with Someone Who Is Grieving

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Helping a Grieving Friend or Family Member

Death, while a natural part of life, is no less jarring for the loved ones closest to the person who passed.

Whether the death was sudden and unexpected or had been prepared for, the effect on those who remain is profound.

One of the challenges for the friends and family of someone who is grieving is knowing what to say. You don’t want to avoid conversation of their loss altogether, but you also don’t want to open any fresh wounds in the person’s heart.

If you have a friend or family member experiencing grief, here are 6 tips for speaking with them during their time of loss:

Keep It Simple

Sometimes, people feel the need to speak too much in the face of uncomfortable emotions. This can lead to awkward situations and making your friend feel they need to respond in kind.

Rather than starting with some flowery speech about your memories of the lost loved one, a simple, “I’m here for you however you need me” will suffice.

This lets the person know that you’re acknowledging their grief and offering help without putting them on the spot. If that person chooses to ask for your help, whether that be with running a quick errand, babysitting their children, or even bringing a meal, they can without feeling pressured into accepting a specific task.

Be Honest

Losing a loved one is terrible, no matter the circumstances.

Too often, people speaking to someone who’s grieving don’t acknowledge the fact that what that person is experiencing is unfair and something no one likes to go through. But being open and simply saying, “This stinks,” can go a long way.

Many people who are grieving hear too much of how sorry people are for their loss and how great a person the loved one was. While these are all great sentiments, a simple acknowledgement of the unfairness of their situation may be welcome.

No Cliches

Facing someone who’s grieving causes some people to revert back to the tried-and-true phrases such as “I’ll be praying for you” or “Time heals all wounds.”

While these may be the first things in your mind when you’re speaking to your grieving friend, they likely have heard those phrases many times over. And, in the event of telling someone you’ll pray for them, it could be a misguided choice if the person isn’t religious.

Instead, speak from your heart and use the words you’d want to hear if you were in that person’s shoes.

Don’t Coddle

It can be tempting to treat someone who’s grieving like a fragile doll, especially if you don’t have very much experience with death yourself.

However, that person’s whole existence likely is consumed by grief and tasks such as dealing with the deceased person’s estate. Instead of gently asking your friend how they’re doing, offer to pick them up and go out for lunch or to a movie. Try to talk about anything but their grief, unless your friend steers the conversation in that direction.

Many people in the throes of grief crave some sense of normalcy. Give your loved one that welcome reprieve.

Check In

When someone dies, the condolences, visits, and offers of help are plentiful in the early days.

But they tend to dwindle away quickly after services as everyone else gets back to their lives. However, the grieving person is still in the midst of their healing, and still needs love and support.

Make a plan to check in with your grieving loved one periodically, offering a listening ear, a home-cooked meal, or tickets to a concert together. Don’t overdo your presence, but don’t disappear, either.

Let the person who’s grieving tell you when they’re in a good enough space for you to back off.

Tell Stories

While your friend’s pain may still be fresh, that doesn’t mean they won’t want to hear any talk of their lost loved one.

Instead, tell stories of the deceased if you have any. Many people will welcome the ability to hear about someone they care deeply about, even if it hurts a little.

But be sure to tune into the reaction and body language of your friend; if they start to withdraw or look as if they’re having a difficult time, they may not be ready to hear those stories just yet.

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