What to say—and not—to someone who is grieving

I found this interesting, and helpful: a brief blog post at Huffington by grief expert Gloria Horsley, on how to help those struggling with grief.  We’ve all been there, and a lot of us find ourselves ministering to those in mourning.

What to do:

Show up. – I used to send a card. Now, I send myself. My friend Sally showed up at our house before our first dinner alone, brought a book, and just read while we ate. It was very comforting.

Do a kindness. – Friends mowed my lawn, took out the garbage, walked the dog and took the kids to movies.

Answer the telephone and take notes. – We had dozens of casseroles, walls of flowers, and random gifts. Without careful notes taken by friends, we would have had no idea what to do with the empty dishes or who to thank.

Create a memorial website. – When I was working on the Columbia University 9/11 project helping the fire fighters’ families whose loved ones died in the Twin Trade Towers, we created a memorial website where our staff could tell his family the great things their son and brother had done to help those in need.

Be willing to sit down and listen. – This is important, as people often get anxious when confronted with grief and have difficulty being silent when those in grief talk. I needed to tell my story over and over again in order to have the enormity of my loss become a reality.

Ask how they are really feeling. – Don’t ask this question unless you are willing to take some time to listen. You feel dropped when people ask you to dig deep and then look at their watch.

Don’t try to be profound. – This advice was given to me by a very insightful priest. Just showing up and sitting with grievers is profound.

Be patient. Learning to live again takes time. – Friends and family don’t like to see you suffer, and they really do want you to get on with life. They want you to be the person you were prior to the loss. They don’t want to hear the reality that “you will never be the same but will have to find a ‘new normal’.”

Check out the link for suggestions on what NOT to say.

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