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What to Say to A Griever

Insights on Grief

What to Say to a Griever

Many people have no idea or are very uncomfortable in what to say.  I have compiled a list of things to say to a griever to help put both of you at ease when encountering the issue of death.

  1. I can’t imagine what this like for you.  Would you like to talk about?  This lets the griever know you are not presumptive about their experience and are truly open to listening to them.
  2. The most likely response to your inquiry as to how the griever is doing is  “I’m fine”.  More times than not the griever responds this way because they may believe that you really do not want to go into detail about how they are actually doing.  A simple way to break the ice to formulate your own response to the Word FINE.  I indicate that it is ok to feel FINE-Frightened, Insecure, Neurotic and Exhausted all at the same time.   Please feel free to come up with your own response. 
  3. What can I do for you?  Can I run some errands for you, bring you food, get someone to  clean for you or take anything off your plate.   I am going to give you an example of what a dear  friend did for me. After my father died, one of my best friends asked me what I needed and he was willing to do whatever he could. I told him that I really needed help clearing out the contents of my parents’ home. Without hesitation he took a week off work, flew to Orlando and  helped me in any way I needed him.  He may not of known what I was going through, but he could feel the pain in my voice. He made me feel at ease when he asked what I needed and I had a strong sense he would come through.
  4. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to get over it. Death is not something you get over. You  just learn to live life differently.
  5. Use proper words to describe what happened. Use words correctly such as death, died, cancer, suicide or murder. Don’t force the griever to use these words if they are not comfortable. This lets the griever know that they don’t have dance around the subject of death.
  6. Wherever this next phase of life takes you, I am here to help you rebuild your life and regain joy again.
  7. Use the deceased’s name. This gives the griever comfort that others also remember them.
  8. Invite or tell a story about the deceased. This gives the griever comfort that others valued their loved one.   This also gives the griever outside perspective on their loved one they may have never known.  When my father passed away, I quickly realized how many folks he mentored on a regular basis based on the stories I was told.
  9. There is no timetable on what you should feel or when you should feel it. There are many people that will presume to know when a griever should return to full strength. There are many factors such as: culture, race, religion, background, family dynamics or life experience that can determine a grievers progression through the process.
  10. I don’t know how this happened. This lets the griever know you don’t have or presume to know all the answers. This also helps the griever come to conclusions and answer questions on their own.
  11. Please also be advised that a griever may display any of the following behaviors:  shock, numbness, sadness, guilt, yearning, anxiety, abandonment, anger, helplessness, fear, relief, emancipation and secluded--all are normal
  12. Please also be advised that a griever may have the following thoughts:  disbelief, complete lack of concentration, absentmindedness, sense of going crazy, visual and auditory hallucinations--all are normal