What is the Right Thing to Say?
In our continuing series of how best to help someone through the grieving process, we initially addressed common phrases people use when trying to console someone who has lost a loved one. We focused on what NOT to say as many times, though well intended, these words can cause more sorrow. This week, we are going to provide some of the suggestions on what TO say. These suggestions were published in an issue of My Careletter, which is available on request from Hilgenfeld Mortuary. Here are some phrases that serve as "door openers" - inviting the bereaved to talk and share their thoughts.
"This must be very painful for you." - This gives the griever the opportunity to voice their pain.
"You must have been very close to her." - The focus is put on the relationship the survivor had with their loved one.
"I have no idea what it is like for you; I have never had a (spouse/parent/child) die. Can you tell me what it is like?" - Then listen!
"It must be hard to accept." - Listen again, this time with an understanding for the difficulties they are facing.
"I really miss (name of deceased). He was a special person. But that can't compare to how much you must miss him. Tell me what it is like." - Once again, listen.
You can see the theme here. When you choose what to say, keep in mind that it is far more important to listen than to fill the void with your words. Offering no judgement or advice, just listening is truly the best way you can help ease someone's sorrow.
Excerpts taken from My Careletter's authorized reprinting from Heartlight Magazine. Copyright 1989-1996, Heartlight Inc.