Have you ever met up with a friend or family member who's just lost someone close to them and felt at a loss as to what to say? You're not alone. We feel awkward in this situation because we think that whatever we say isn't going to be adequate. We know the fallout from a recent death can be the biggest challenge any of us go through and offering words of condolence can seem so - well futile.
Having experienced the death of my husband last year, I offer some guidance of what to say or do that's helpful and appropriate. Even if it seems that the other person is distracted or appears not to listen, they will appreciate your thoughts.
1. "I have no words to express my sorrow for your loss." The grieving person will understand that because often, they don't either.
2. "I can't imagine what you're going through but I'm here for you." It's comforting to the grieving person to know that others are standing strong for them.
3. "What can I do for you today?" Don't be surprised if you're asked to undertake practical tasks. The grieving person often finds it difficult to carry out the simplest jobs like putting out the bins or getting in the washing.
4. "How are you feeling?" This is a tricky one because the grieving person may actually tell you and it might not be comfortable. However, what they want is only to be heard; you don't need to fix it or make suggestions. The kindest thing is to listen and nod.
5. Say nothing. Allow the grieving person to share their thoughts. To listen intently is your true gift to them.
6. If they cry, don't worry. It's normal for others to cry when talking about their feelings and, again, you don't need to do anything but stay still. Your stillness says 'I accept you.'
7. Share a beautiful story about your relationship with the person who's died. This will help the grieving person know they are not the only one missing them.
8. Accept the silence. People who are grieving have no problem being silent. Silence doesn't need to be filled, just held.
9. Be as accepting of the grieving person's depression or anger. It's all part of the same process.
10. Be mindful that the grieving person will be sorrowful long after the funeral is over. Keep practicing 1-9 until they indicate they are back on their feet.
This is only my opinion but I hope it helps to elucidate what can be a difficult time for everyone.