How to Help Someone Who Is Grieving During A Time of Loss

helping.grieving.friend.jpgThe funeral home can be an intimidating place especially for those who have never been in one before. We can have misconception thoughts about what exactly goes on inside this type of establishment. Even if you’ve attended several funerals, you may still feel a bit uneasy about being in a funeral home or facing the bereaved family members.

After hearing of a death of a friend, acquaintance or even extended family member, we may often think “I’m not sure what to say”, or “what can I do to help?” These self questions are very normal as we can feel very inadequate to lend a helping hand or saying an encouraging word.

I have some very close and dear friends who recently and unexpectedly lost their daughter in a car accident. Although they were close friends in whom my husband and I felt very comfortable being around, when this tragedy hit, I was at a total loss for words. I knew we had to see them but hesitated for awhile because I did not know what to say or how I could possibly comfort them. I had never been through this type of experience and felt paralyzed  in my actions.

When we finally did visit with them during the midst of their funeral planning, we hugged them and confessed we were at a loss for words. They taught us that our presence was enough words were not necessary. Sometimes physically being there spoke louder than words. Most of the visit we sat there with them mourning silently. 

Sending a card, flowers, sympathy gift, a phone call or visiting the funeral home are other physical things you can do to help in a silent way. Don’t think you have to say something wise or encouraging at the moment or even have to share a similar experience. “I’m so sorry” is enough along with your sympathy in action and shows the family you care very much. 

These types of actions should not end after the funeral ends. For most, the mourning and grieving doesn’t sink in until after the service and burial has completed. Because of the busy time of funeral planning, grieving can be postponed and delayed until everything settles down.

What to Say

Even the most eloquent person can be at a loss for words when hearing upon a friend’s death. Everyone expresses and processes feelings differently when someone has died sometimes the best words that can be said are “I’m sorry for your loss.” Try to avoid saying “You’re doing so well”, “I know just how you feel”, “You’ll be all right”, or “time will take care of it all”. When my husband’s best friend lost his mother, he did not know what to say. In fact, upon arrival at the funeral service, he hugged his friend then asked, “how is she doing?” Of course, he fumbled over his words and not thinking, blurted out the first thing that came into his mind. If you need to think it through before you see the surviving family members on what to say, then take a moment to do so. If you can’t think of anything to say, just saying “I’m sorry for your loss” is okay. Don’t try and think of something different to say. The bereaved family may misunderstand your well intentions and you do not want to take that chance. 

In addition to saying your sorry for their loss, you might want to consider asking or saying, “how are you feeling”, “This must be very hard for you”, or “how is everyone coping?” This depends on your relationship with the surviving family members. It may very well be that a handshake or warm embrace is indeed enough said. Keep in mind that large funerals that are attended by a lot of people may not lend you to have much of a conversation.

Show Your Feelings

Crying is the usual way we express hurt, pain, or sorrow at a funeral. It is okay to cry as this is the God given emotion we were born with and is triggered during difficult or trying times in a life. It does not show weakness and can also be a type of therapy that can help make us feel better. It’s okay to laugh as well. If someone shares or recounts a funny story about or they had with the deceased it may be humorous. Laughing is perfectly fine at a funeral service, it can help promote healing and dissipate the pain. You don’t have to be reluctant to share a humorous story or memory, there is no ban of laughter at a funeral.

Other gestures of showing your feelings can be in the form of sending a memorial card, flowers or memorial donation in lieu of flowers. Donations is a way you can show the family you care and are passionate about finding a cure or support a particular organization that related to the deceased.