Our lives are shaped by those who love us.
When someone dear to us dies, we need our family and friends to lean in. But few people instinctively know what to say or do, and instead we can find ourselves feeling even more isolated and alone.
To others, we can be a reminder that the horrible happens, the unjust occurs, the unthinkable turns anyone’s life upside down in a heartbeat. Yet we are too broken to offer guidance or a roadmap to those who care about us. We need our friends and family to keep us afloat, to hold our hand, to help us climb out of the pit, to reassure us that we can survive the loss. But how?
.Articles that offer guidance to those who love us are often negative — “The 7 Things You Should Never Say To A Grieving Parent”, “10 Dumb Things To Say to Someone In Grief”, “Stupid Stuff People Say When Someone Dies”. Writers and commentators will sometimes mock those who reach out to us by categorizing them as “Minimizers”, “The Feelings Police”, “Fixers”, “The Cheerleaders”.
People’s natural fear of saying or doing the wrong thing is heightened by these articles, resulting in what grievers fear most — our friends and family pulling back, avoiding us, saying nothing.
At Salt Water, we believe that the people who love us want to reach out and offer comfort, support and help. Contrary to the shaming messages of the critical articles and snarky labels, perfect scripts or phrases and magic words that ease grief don’t exist. What is true is that saying something is far better than saying nothing, and the simple act of showing up and holding a bereaved person’s hand can be the greatest gift of all.
Some of our favorite pieces offering insight on how to support a grieving friend or family member:
- What To Say To A Bereaved Person — Dr. Susan Delaney shares insights and simple strategies on how to reach out to someone in mourning.
- When A Bereaved Person Says They’re “Fine” — Dr. Susan Delaney offers suggestions on how to respond.
- The Power of Empathy — Brene Brown defines empathy and explains why it’s such a powerful tool to ease someone’s pain and suffering.
- “My partner died. Then my brother. Here’s what not to say to someone who is grieving” — “We say that they’re in a better place or to just remember the good times, because if we spoke the truth – that tragedy comes for us all, that sometimes life is random and cruel and painful and beyond comprehension – I mean, how would we even function? So, we speak in platitudes. They roll off our tongue. But they don’t help the person who is grieving; they exist to comfort the person on the other side of the loss, those bearing witness to the grief.”
- “How To Help A Grieving Friend: 11 Things To Do When You’re Not Sure What To Do” — Practical advice from therapist Megan Devine about how to support someone who’s grieving.
- “The Mistake I Made With My Grieving Friend” – Have you been a “conversational narcissist”? Listening, without talking about ourselves, is hard. But it’s what our grieving friend or family member needs most.
- “The Gift of Shared Grief” — Why sending a condolence card matters
- “How Not To Say The Wrong Thing” — To console someone who’s grieving, begin by not making it about you
- “Caregiving Is Hard Enough. Isolation Can Make It Unbearable” – Insightful article about caregiving being its own form of loss. Your world narrows, your schedule becomes unpredictable and your ability to leave the house is restricted.
- “Grieving Children Need Your ‘I’m Sorry’ Too” – Wonderful article about the importance of saying “I’m sorry” to even the smallest survivor of a great loss.
- “The Friendships That Hold Us Safely In Their Keep” – “Not only was I going to lose her, I was going to lose all the reflections of me that came from her eyes.” Moving piece about sibling loss and the healing power of friendship.
We invite you to become part of our community. Share your story, ask a question, make a comment. We’d love to hear from you.
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