If someone you know is grieving the loss of a loved one to death, divorce, or separation, this article can help you be better prepared to comfort them. Often, it’s uncomfortable to not know what to say or do for those who are grieving, so we stay away. PLEASE, don’t avoid the person or situation. They need you more than you could know. If you’re interested in how to help YOURSELF if you’ve suffered a loss, check out “When YOU are Grieving” here. If you want to know more about “What to Say to Someone Who Lost a Child,” check that out here.
3 Ways to Help Comfort Others When Grieving a Loss:
#1 Be Present.
This is more than just sitting next to someone – it’s being with a them by making eye contact, touching or hugging if they are all right with it (always ask first!). Keep bringing your thoughts back to the present moment. Don’t think about your own circumstances. Bring your thoughts back from planning what is for dinner, Don’t worry if you’re saying the right things or not. Or even wonder if this is going to be over soon. Just keep your mind and your thoughts on this person. In this moment. Right now.
#2 Ask Questions about the Loss.
Most people who are grieving want a chance to express their feelings. If they don’t – just go back to #1 and be present. You don’t have to try and “fix” it. They are not broken. They just want and need someone to listen and care and be present. You can ask, in a caring, non-judgmental way, “What happened?” Or, depending on the situation, you may need to say, “I heard you lost your ______. Would you be willing to share with me what happened?”
After asking, you simply need to be quiet and listen. This is not about you, so refrain from sharing a similar story from your own life, and just HEAR what they are saying and feeling in this moment. Remember, you are asking to allow the one who is grieving to tell their story to express emotions and not to give you information. If they ask you if you’ve ever been through something like this, answer honestly, but then turn it back to them. You may say something like: “Yes, and I remember what it was like for me, but I want to hear how you are dealing with this.” If you never dealt with a similar situation, you might say, “No, I cannot imagine what you are going through and I hope you will share that with me.”
#3 Offer to Handle Specific Tasks.
One of the most common things a someone who is grieving hears from others is to “Let me know if you need anything.” In all likelihood, this won’t happen because when grieving, the last thing we need to think about is, “What do I need?” Having a lack of focus and being pulled in several directions at once is very common and can leave us lost when it comes to making decisions.
However, when someone offers to perform a specific task, such as bringing over dinner, doing their laundry, shoveling their sidewalk, mowing their grass, cleaning their home, babysitting, or picking up someone at the airport is far better that asking them to make a decision about how you can help. Even if they decline your offer, they know that you are willing to help out in a tangible way. It is also very possible that they may ask you to do something other than what you suggested because they really do know that you are there for them. Remember, like everything else, it starts with YOU being present and aware. There is nothing you can say or do or buy that could equally exchange for you JUST…BEING…PRESENT in body, mind, and spirit. Refrain from telling those who are suffering – especially if it is YOU! – how you should or shouldn’t feel. Just FEEL it. Feelings can be overwhelming and scary and uncomfortable and not “normal” for you or the person experiencing it. But recognizing and experiencing them is the only healthy way to grieve. My goodness, Moms – even Jesus wept when Lazarus died! If you push them down or away, I promise you they will absolutely come out in other ways!
Kate Fraiser is a Parent Coach with Connect Point Moms helping you create stronger relational connections with the children in your life. This starts with being aware of your own stuff so you can BE PRESENT with your children in the moment you’re in, and then knowing and using the best ways to communicate with them. For quick and helpful parenting videos, find her on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, or Facebook.