Helping a Grieving Friend
Often following a death, colleagues, acquaintances, and even friends and family are unsure of what to say to someone who is grieving. This lack of clarity, combined with the fear that bringing up the person who died will upset the bereaved, results in a deafening silence. Overnight, people stop mentioning the loved one’s name and become avoidant of those who are grieving. This is a very common response, as it is difficult to see others hurting, and no one wants to pour salt in the wound of a grieving person. However, we can learn to be present, supportive, and emphatic to grieving people by keeping a few things in mind.
First, respectfully acknowledge the death
You could say, “I am sorry to hear your mom died, and I have been thinking about you. I am here for you.” You will not be shocking or hurting your friend or colleague as they will already be upset, and will not have forgotten that their mother died. They may be looking for an opening to discuss their feelings, and your acknowledgement provides an opportunity to share their thoughts with you when ready.
Second, it is okay to be at a loss for words.
If you are not sure what to say, you can simply state “I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know that I care.” This may help a grieving person feel less alone. A grieving person does not expect you to have answers or for you to fix the situation. They simply need support and to know that people care about what they are going through.
Finally, do not be afraid to say the name of the person who died.
By mentioning to a friend or peer, “Sally loved this song!” or “I remember how much Ted loved to play golf” you express that you have not forgotten the person who died. Their loved ones never will forget them, and may be comforted by a reminder of how they touched other people’s lives.
If you or someone you know is grieving and needs support, don’t hesitate to contact Willow House for more information about our free support services.