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What to Say to Someone Who is Grieving
By Andrea Miller
Do you admire those rare people who effortlessly say the right thing at the right time? In difficult circumstances, they seem to say the most elegant and graceful words of sympathy or support to compassionately match the occasion.
But few have this rare gift. For the vast majority of us, coming up with the right words in the right situation takes much thought and effort.
Speaking with those who are grieving can be very awkward and there’s no getting around it. Indeed some people find this such a daunting prospect that they avoid grieving relatives altogether. This can often cause even more pain for those who have experienced a loss.
But there are some does and don’t in this situation.
If you’re not sure what to say, don’t be tempted to trot out well worn clichés. These may seem helpful but they really aren’t. Stay away from suggesting things like, “I know you feel”, “keep your chin up” or “it’s God’s will.” These comments although well intentioned, simply don’t work and won’t help the person grieving.
So what is helpful?
For the most part, the grieving family will appreciate you showing your support by taking the time to attend the funeral service or memorial. If for instance you are at a funeral receiving line of immediate family members of the deceased, some simple and appropriate words could be:
“My condolences to you and your family.”
“My sympathy to you.”
“It was a pleasure knowing (name of deceased).”
“(name of deceased) was an amazing person”
“He/She will be deeply missed.”
“I am so sorry for your loss.”
If you see the family at a time afterwards, take your cues from them. Depending on your relationship with the individual you could say any one of the following:
“Tell me how I can help?”
“How have you been managing since (name of deceased) died?
“What do you need right now?”
“It’s ok if you do not feel like talking right now.”
For the most part, be available to listen and just be with the person when you can. Most bereaved want to talk about the person who has died and try not to impede that desire. Encourage them to talk about the deceased and don’t change the subject or avoid mentioning the person’s name just because you feel uncomfortable.
Remember it’s all about them.
Other articles in this series
- How to write a sympathy or condolence letter.
- What to say to someone who is grieving
- What Grieving Mothers want on Mother’s day
- Princess Diana’s Eulogy
- John F Kennedy Jr Eulogy
- 84 Funeral Poems Collection
- * Quotes Suitable for Eulogies