Sunday, September 4, 2016

Offering Sympathy to the Bereaved

Suzie Kolber, a volunteer writer at  asked if she could contribute this information to my blog. I’m more than happy to print any resources or words to help the bereaved. If you have written something or can give me information that I can expand on, please share it with me and if I can use it, I will certainly do so. In the meantime, you can visit this site for additional information on condolence letters, funeral planning resources or writing obituaries.

Saying the Right Things When You Offer Sympathy to Others  by Suzie Kolber
What do you say to your best friend when his father dies? How do you comfort your cousin who has lost a spouse? And what words can comfort a parent who has lost their child? These are common thoughts for anyone when trying to decide how to offer sympathy to a grieving family member or friend.

Don’t avoid the issue. Instead of trying to talk around the subject, acknowledge the situation. It is appropriate to say that you heard that a person died even if it occurred some time ago. This lets the other person know that you are willing to talk about it and allows them to say what they want.

Always be honest and sincere even if that means admitting that you don’t know what to say. Sometimes just saying that you are sorry about the situation is enough. You can say it in a variety of ways such as: “I’m sorry to hear about your loss” or “I’m sorry that you are going through this” or “I want you to know how sorry I am that this has happened to you.” Showing your concern lets the other person know that he or she is not alone.

Be supportive. You may feel like you should be doing something for the grieving person. It feels awkward to just stand or sit and talk about the situation. If you are the type of person who wants to “fix” things, you should use that attitude in this situation. While you can’t fix it, you can do things to make the burden easier.

Some examples of support include helping out with tasks around the house or caring for children so that the bereaved person can deal with other jobs. You may be able to take on some projects that the deceased handled, especially important when the people are older. Maybe he mowed the lawn, or she cooked dinner. Now that they are gone, this task is left up to another family member. They may feel overwhelmed at all of the work they need to do and appreciate you taking on the responsibility for a few days or weeks.

One of the best ways to offer ongoing support is by asking how the person feels. This allows them to deal with their feelings and express any concerns they are having. It is a good question to ask even months later because people may grieve for a very long time. When you receive an answer to your question, don’t assume that means you have to respond or “make them feel better.” Just the act of telling you that ‘today is a bad day’ or ‘I spent the morning crying’ can be enough.

The most important thing to remember about offering sympathy to people who are dealing with the loss of a loved one is that it’s not the words that matter. It’s the meaning and the intention behind the words.

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