“What should I say?” “What if I say the wrong thing?”
Those questions stop the closest of friends from reaching out during grief.
After Lauralee's brother passed away she had some friends reach out to her. There were a couple friends that she could tell didn't know what to say but expressed some of the following sentiments and it meant so much to her. Years later she remembers and still appreciates the effort and meaning of those words.
So don’t worry, you aren’t the only one. It's natural to shy away from the uncomfortable and you may not always know what to say to someone who is grieving.
But don’t let the worries stop you from comforting a friend or family member in need.
I promise you that you will never regret trying to show love at this difficult time. But, chances are really good that you will regret not trying.
Here are the 10 tried-and-true things to say to help a grieving friend.
1 - "I'm sorry." It’s such a simple phrase but extremely powerful. Two honest, sincere words to let a friend know that their loss touches you, too.
You don't need to say more, just let them know how terribly sorry you are.
2 - "We're thinking of you/praying for you." Only say this if it's true. Are you really thinking or praying for them? If so, let them know.
Grief is so lonely. And this is such a great reminder that they're not alone in their loss. Others are grieving along side them. They will be able to feel your support even if you aren’t nearby.
3 - “I know how much you loved her and how special she was to you.” Acknowledging the relationship and how close they were helps validate the emotions that the grieving person is feeling.
4 - “We all need help at times like this. Can I …?” I don't know about you but I have a really hard time accepting help from others. I try to do everything on my own. I know there are a lot of people out there like me.
Letting them know that everyone needs help gives them more freedom to accept help even though it may be uncomfortable for them. Offer something specific like bringing dinner or picking up their kids from school.
An open ended offer rarely gets accepted but a specific offer and a time that you'll do it is usually accepted unless they really don't need the help. It will also mean a lot more. You put in the effort to think of what you could do and were ready to do it for them. Whether it's accepted or not, this is much more meaningful and touching than a vague offer to help.
5 - “I wish I had the right words, just know I care.” Honesty is the most genuine form of sympathy. If you let them know that you are unsure of what to say but that you love them that is all that they need at that time.
And trust me, if you truly mean this, they will feel your love and sincerity.
6 - “I’ll be here for as long as you need me.” This statement lets your grieving friend know that they can count on you and that you are there for them. Grief can be so lonely and can span years. Knowing they are not alone and can reach out to you months or years after the loss of their loved one can be a truly touching thing to hear after the loss of a loved one.
7 - "I loved your brother. I'll never forget the time that..." After losing a loved one it is a common fear and cause of anxiety that they will forget their loved one, forget the good memories, forget their face, the sound of their voice or their laugh.
The memories you hold of their loved one is one of the most precious gifts you can give them. It will ease their fears, bring their loved one back into their life almost as if they were back together again sharing stories of times past.
Sharing the good memories of their loved one might mean more than anything else anyone can say to them. It might make them cry, but I promise you it will mean the world to them.
8 - “I am so sorry you are hurting right now.” Sometimes letting them know that you understand that they are going through a hard time is all they need. Most of the time follow that up with silence and a hug.
9 - “I am just a phone call away if you ever want to talk.” It lets the person in grief know that you are comfortable to talk and want to talk with them when they are ready. If you are close enough don’t wait for the phone to ring. Check in on them and follow up on how they are doing.
10 - “Silence” - If you can’t think of anything to say or you freeze up, just listen. Sometimes it’s more about the grieving person working through their pain out loud with a friend than you saying anything at all.
By being aware of these simple things to say, you will be a valued friend during this dark time of their lives. You will be truly supporting and helping the person you care about in their hour of need.
Still feel like you can do more? Check out what to avoid saying to a person who is grieving and stay tuned until next week when we will talk about the BEST things you can DO for a person in grief.