We are often at a loss with words to say when a friend or family member is in grief. Sometimes we are so scared of saying or doing something wrong that we end up not doing anything at all. While there is nothing you can do to take the pain away, your presence can make a difference. Knowing how to console someone can be difficult, even if we know the person for a very long time. In fact, there is no one perfect way to do it, but here’s how you can be a friend to someone in grief:
What to do and to say to someone in grief
Reach out and make concrete offers.
You might fear reaching out for it may remind them of the bad event again, but even if you don’t, they probably are always thinking about it. Just reach out and say something but avoid saying things like “It’s God’s plan” or inject a positive side in the situation. Just let the person know that you’re there for them and that you sympathize with them. Sitting in silence can mean the world to someone in grief. The feeling that someone cares and is mourning with you is comforting enough. I know that’s what helped me when I’ve mourned losses before. It is often difficult for bereaved people to reach out so it’s better for you to take the initiative.
Instead of saying you can call me if you need someone to talk to or if you need anything, offer specific help or make concrete offers such as you will call at this time on this day or you will be there every morning to take their dog for a walk. You don’t have to go overboard. Offering support in small and ordinary ways will let the person feel you care about them and at the same time, lessen the load of daily routines.
Be there, but don’t take over.
Everyone grieves in a different way. Some people may want to busy themselves with funeral arrangements. Some may want to hide in their room and not talk to anyone for a while. You can offer to help, bring food over for your friend to make sure he or she is okay, but don’t overdo it, i.e. by taking over funeral arrangements or cleaning their home, clearing the belongings of the person they’re grieving (unless you’re that comfortable and confident enough that your friend would genuinely appreciate it). Taking care of their loved one’s arrangements and belongings is a huge part of their grieving process too. Though you may have good intentions, be careful not to take that away from them unless you’ve talked to your friend about it.
Listen with compassion and acknowledge all feelings.
If you know how to listen compassionately, you wouldn’t be so worried about what to say or how to respond to the bereaved. When you listen with compassion, you can take cues on how to respond appropriately. Don’t try to force someone to open up, but let the grieving person know that you’re just there if they want someone to talk to. In the same way that if the bereaved opens up, don’t try to avoid or change the subject. What a grieving person needs is for their loss to be acknowledged. Accept and acknowledge all feelings. Let them know that they are free to express what they feel. Offer comfort and hope without diminishing the loss.
Let the grieving person know that what they’re feeling is okay. If you have experienced something similar, you can share it only if you think it would help. But keep in mind that grief is extremely a personal experience. No two people process loss or experience grief the exact same way so never compare your grief to theirs, never claim to know what they are feeling, or give unsolicited advice. Listening helps more than advising.
Stick with the truth and know that you can’t fix anything.
It’s common for people to make the mistake of saying generalized statements about the situation such as their work is done here, or they’re finally free of pain and in a better place. While people usually say this to soothe a grieving person, it doesn’t help. It doesn’t erase the fact that it hurts. So it’s better to state the truth. Better say: “I can’t imagine how much it hurts for you right now (unless you have.). Know that I love you and I’m always here for you.”
Another thing you should keep in mind when consoling a grieving loved one is to acknowledge that it is beyond your power to fix or solve the loss. Healing takes time. There is nothing you can say that can fix the unfixable so don’t try to say anything to repair it or to take the pain away.
We all have different ways of expressing love. Find your own way to show your love to the person who is grieving. If you love baking, you can bake cookies for your loved one who is in grief. You can regularly send text messages or Facebook messages to let the person know you are thinking of them. You can send sympathy gift baskets and food.
This pandemic makes it harder for people to be physically there or to give a hug to someone who really needs it. But you can give someone a weighted blanket to provide that hug-like they need. Grieving can sometimes cause people to have difficulty sleeping, and this weighted blanket can help them get the good night’s sleep that they badly need. As mentioned earlier, there is no perfect way to console someone in grief, but you can genuinely express your love in your own way. It might sound cliche but it’s the thought that counts. That person might not remember exactly what you did but they will remember how your efforts made them feel loved and cared for.
People have different ways of coping with grief and loss. Everyone has their own timetable which you can’t rush. But what is common for everyone is that grief is a gradual process. When you want to be a friend to someone in grief, you should know these facts.
It is natural to be worried about what to say and do when a friend or family member is grieving. It just means you care a lot. Listen to your instincts. If your intentions are true and you truly care for someone, it will show. Do not be afraid to ask the person directly to know how you can best support them during this time of mourning.
There are people who tend to seclude themselves when they are grieving but that doesn’t mean they don’t need your support. While you want to give them space, it’s important that you still check in every now and then even just to say hello.
Another effective support to someone in grief is through Reiki or Intuitive Healing with a focus on emotional release. These forms of natural energy healing treatments can profoundly help someone in grief release heavy emotions that they may not realize that they have. Additionally, it helps massively with restoring the body, calming it so that one is able to rest a bit better with less guilt even while processing grief. I’ve had clients who worry about their loved ones who are living elsewhere in grief and are having to process heavy emotions alone so they’ve scheduled for Distant Reiki or Distant Intuitive Healing sessions for them as a way to support them through the difficult time.
The last thing on someone in grief’s mind is self-care, so that’s when their family and community can show up and share their love with the person. Grief comes and goes. It may never fully be done with but what does help is when a person in grief has a friend like you who wants to support them. And when they’re ready to take the next step to process their grief, a few Reiki or Intuitive Healing sessions is one of the most gentle yet effective ways to support someone in a healthy and holistic way.