What to Say to a Grieving Friend

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What to Say to a Grieving Friend

Los­ing some­one close to us is always a dif­fi­cult thing. It’s espe­cially tragic when death comes sud­denly and with­out warn­ing. All of us know peo­ple who have had to deal with per­sonal loss and each of us has had to grieve as well.

Sud­den loss is no stranger to me. I lost both par­ents in sep­a­rate acci­dents and my col­lege room­mate was killed in a car acci­dent at the end of my junior year. Each time, I strug­gled with grief. Actu­ally, there are days I still strug­gle. None of us ever com­pletely recov­ers from los­ing someone.

We all need to express our grief in times like that. And we all want to reach out to the fam­i­lies hurt have been affected the most.

What do I say?

The most com­mon ques­tion I’ve been asked I by peo­ple is, “What can I say to peo­ple who are griev­ing? What can I do to help them?”

I’m not a grief coun­selor or expert, but I’ve been around a lot of griev­ing peo­ple and done my fair share of funer­als. I’d like to share a few things to maybe help answer that question.

Magic Words

First, real­ize that there are no magic words you can share that will take away their pain. We want to, I think, remove their hurt. When it’s our turn in the vis­i­ta­tion line, we want to offer some sort of word that will com­fort and maybe bring them solace. But it prob­a­bly won’t hap­pen. If you’ve been in that sit­u­a­tion, you know how true that state­ment is.

When you’re stand­ing next to the cas­ket of your loved one, you are an exhausted, empty shell of your­self. Dis­tant, emo­tional and frag­ile. The bar­rage of peo­ple is com­fort­ing at times and at oth­ers, it is emo­tion­ally charged.

There are def­i­nitely things we can do. There are words we can say to help.

The first thing I would encour­age some­one to do is share a spe­cial mem­ory. Most peo­ple who attend a vis­i­ta­tion or funeral have a unique story about the departed. A story that the person’s fam­ily hasn’t heard. It’s usu­ally a story about how that per­son touched your life.

I would encour­age you, if vis­i­ta­tion time allows, to share that story with the fam­ily. If it doesn’t, take the time to write it down in a card or a let­ter. Even if you share it with them, write it down any­way. Most funeral homes col­lect cards to give to the fam­ily later. It’s hard for fam­ily mem­bers to process every­thing dur­ing the day of vis­i­ta­tion and the day of a funeral. Imag­ine how pre­cious it is when they open up a card that has a hand­writ­ten note from some­one that shares with them a new mem­ory about their loved one.

If you’re at vis­i­ta­tion and are at a loss for words or didn’t know the per­son well, I’ve always learned that a sim­ple, “God bless you,” can be a kind word to share.

Did the per­son who passed on ever give you any­thing spe­cial? Maybe you have a nice pho­to­graph that the fam­ily doesn’t have. Maybe they made you a book­mark, gave you a card once that encour­aged you. You don’t have to give it away, but have it pro­fes­sion­ally copied and share it with the fam­ily and let them know how much it meant to you. If you have a photo of them on your phone or photo album, have it printed, stick it in a card and leave it for them. These keep­sakes often mean more than any words we can share.

I remem­ber after my col­lege room­mate died, a friend of ours came to see me a week later. She handed me a pic­ture. My room­mate and I had taken her cam­era as a joke and taken a selfie two weeks before he died. I had for­got­ten all about it. She had a copy made for me. It meant more to me than any­thing else I had.

When you do get to talk to the fam­ily dur­ing vis­i­ta­tion and you don’t have much time, just share your heart. If you don’t know them, tell them who you are and how you knew their loved one and how much they meant to you.

Take them on a break

If you know the fam­ily and know them well, I want you to encour­age you to do some­thing. If you are close to them and they will lis­ten to you and vis­i­ta­tion has been a long,weary process, encour­age them to take a break for a few min­utes. Take them to the funeral direc­tors office for a Coke. Tell them that the vis­i­ta­tion line will really be okay with­out them. That if some­one really wants to see them, they will find them soon enough. A five or ten minute break can do a fam­ily mem­ber won­ders. And another fam­ily mem­ber can fill in while they are away for a few minutes.

Weeks later, love them

Finally, don’t for­get that the week after the death is a whirl­wind. But the family’s tough­est time is often the weeks after. They have per­sonal belong­ings to go through, an estate to think about, and worst of all, a huge empty hole. The food stops com­ing, the calls stop com­ing, and it sud­denly gets quiet.

Don’t let it get too quiet. Let them have space if that’s what they want. But invite them to lunch. Send a card or an encour­ag­ing email. Love on them.

Hon­estly, this is the worst time. They need more help in this time more than ever. If you want to show love, this is the time to do it. Call them. Let them know you want to take them to the Waf­fle House. Grief doesn’t hap­pen in a six day period after the funeral. It hap­pens for a long time after­wards. If you care about your friend, be sin­cere about lov­ing on them.

For more infor­ma­tion and help (out­side links):

What to Do, Say, and Wear at Funerals

A Guide to Thought­ful Behav­ior at Funeral Homes

21 Ways To Help a Griev­ing Friend

Save

Losing someone close to us is always a difficult thing. It’s especially tragic when death comes suddenly and without warning. All of us know people who have had to deal with personal loss and each of us has had to grieve as well.

Sudden loss is no stranger to me. I lost both parents in separate accidents and my college roommate was killed in a car accident at the end of my junior year. Each time, I struggled with grief. Actually, there are days I still struggle. None of us ever completely recovers from losing someone.

We all need to express our grief in times like that. And we all want to reach out to the families hurt have been affected the most.

What do I say?

The most common question I’ve been asked I by people is, “What can I say to people who are grieving? What can I do to help them?”

I’m not a grief counselor or expert, but I’ve been around a lot of grieving people and done my fair share of funerals. I’d like to share a few things to maybe help answer that question.

Magic Words

First, realize that there are no magic words you can share that will take away their pain. We want to, I think, remove their hurt. When it’s our turn in the visitation line, we want to offer some sort of word that will comfort and maybe bring them solace. But it probably won’t happen. If you’ve been in that situation, you know how true that statement is.

When you’re standing next to the casket of your loved one, you are an exhausted, empty shell of yourself. Distant, emotional and fragile. The barrage of people is comforting at times and at others, it is emotionally charged.

There are definitely things we can do. There are words we can say to help.

The first thing I would encourage someone to do is share a special memory. Most people who attend a visitation or funeral have a unique story about the departed. A story that the person’s family hasn’t heard. It’s usually a story about how that person touched your life.

I would encourage you, if visitation time allows, to share that story with the family. If it doesn’t, take the time to write it down in a card or a letter. Even if you share it with them, write it down anyway. Most funeral homes collect cards to give to the family later. It’s hard for family members to process everything during the day of visitation and the day of a funeral. Imagine how precious it is when they open up a card that has a handwritten note from someone that shares with them a new memory about their loved one.

If you’re at visitation and are at a loss for words or didn’t know the person well, I’ve always learned that a simple, “God bless you,” can be a kind word to share.

Did the person who passed on ever give you anything special? Maybe you have a nice photograph that the family doesn’t have. Maybe they made you a bookmark, gave you a card once that encouraged you. You don’t have to give it away, but have it professionally copied and share it with the family and let them know how much it meant to you. If you have a photo of them on your phone or photo album, have it printed, stick it in a card and leave it for them. These keepsakes often mean more than any words we can share.

I remember after my college roommate died, a friend of ours came to see me a week later. She handed me a picture. My roommate and I had taken her camera as a joke and taken a selfie two weeks before he died. I had forgotten all about it. She had a copy made for me. It meant more to me than anything else I had.

When you do get to talk to the family during visitation and you don’t have much time, just share your heart. If you don’t know them, tell them who you are and how you knew their loved one and how much they meant to you.

Take them on a break

If you know the family and know them well, I want you to encourage you to do something. If you are close to them and they will listen to you and visitation has been a long,weary process, encourage them to take a break for a few minutes. Take them to the funeral directors office for a Coke. Tell them that the visitation line will really be okay without them. That if someone really wants to see them, they will find them soon enough. A five or ten minute break can do a family member wonders. And another family member can fill in while they are away for a few minutes.

Weeks later, love them

Finally, don’t forget that the week after the death is a whirlwind. But the family’s toughest time is often the weeks after. They have personal belongings to go through, an estate to think about, and worst of all, a huge empty hole. The food stops coming, the calls stop coming, and it suddenly gets quiet.

Don’t let it get too quiet. Let them have space if that’s what they want. But invite them to lunch. Send a card or an encouraging email. Love on them.

Honestly, this is the worst time. They need more help in this time more than ever. If you want to show love, this is the time to do it. Call them. Let them know you want to take them to the Waffle House. Grief doesn’t happen in a six day period after the funeral. It happens for a long time afterwards. If you care about your friend, be sincere about loving on them.

For more information and help (outside links):

What to Do, Say, and Wear at Funerals

A Guide to Thoughtful Behavior at Funeral Homes

21 Ways To Help a Grieving Friend

Save

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