“Empathy is a choice and it’s a vulnerable choice because in order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling.”
- Brene Brown
Supporting others who are grieving can be a difficult experience. There is so much fear about saying the “wrong thing” or not being able to make them feel better. But the truth is, what many grieving people need is simply someone who is there for them, who loves them, and who is willing to support them with the best intentions.
Below you’ll find some tips about how you can best support a loved one who is grieving. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need additional support and please don’t forget to take care of yourself, as well.
Practical things you can do to support
- Listen. Know that there is likely nothing you can do to reduce their pain, but being a supportive person to talk to can make all the difference in the world.
- Promise to be a “judgment and shame-free zone.” There are many complex emotions related to grief, some of which may be confusing or feel shameful for the griever.
- Offer to help with practical needs. Even the most mundane tasks like grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, or taking care of children can feel impossible for those experiencing grief. Helping take care of these responsibilities will show your support and allow the griever valuable personal time to heal.
Tips on Language
- "At least...
- you had them for __ years
- you have other children
- you can get remarried
- Rarely, if ever, does an empathetic response start with "at least."
- "Don't take it so hard."
- "It will be OK."
- "Everything happens for a reason."
- "Time heals all wounds."
- "You are getting too emotional and we are worried about you."
- "I know how you feel."
- "God doesn't give you more than you can handle. This was God's will."
- "They're in a better place."
- "I know someone who went through what you're going through."
- "You're handling this so well."
- "You're so strong, I don't know how you do it."
- "What I would do if I were you..."
- "I'm here."
- "I don't know your pain, but I'm so sorry."
- "Can I give you a hug?"
- "I heard about ___ (use name/relationship if known). I'm here for talking, not talking, taking a break, etc."
- "I'm going to the store this afternoon, can I come by and pick up a list of things you need?"
- Listening and being present.
- Ask them how they are really doing and know that it is okay if you don't have solutions to their pain.
- "I'm thinking of you today."
- "I imagine there are still so many things you're navigating through. Please let me know if there is something I can help with."
- "Grief is so different for everyone. What has this been like for you?"
- "Remember, there is no timeline for grief. I won't get tired of hearing about yours if you need a listening ear."