5 tips for talking to a grieving loved one or friend

This week I’d like to share an article I received through a new online friend named Angela Tollersons. She came to my website, www.changewithcourage.com, and expressed an interest in writing an article on grief for me. I liked what she wrote and decided to share it with you here.

Whether it’s a family member or friend, talking about the loss of a loved one is never easy. But talking about death is an important part of the grieving process and can make the person experiencing the loss feel a bit less alone.

Use these tips to stay mindful of how you’re communicating with your friend or family member during this sensitive time.

  1. Choose Your Words Carefully

Avoid talking about religion or the afterlife, comparing their loss to yours, or invalidating their pain. Realize that nothing you can say will relieve your loved one of all the pain they’re feeling, so don’t go into a conversation expecting to “fix” them. Instead, make sure your conversation is inspired by genuine sympathy and support.

  1. Practice Patience

Since one symptom of grief is feeling detached from other people, it’s possible your friend or family member won’t want to talk about his loss at all.

When this happens, practice patience. Don’t push him to express his feelings; let him come to you on his own terms. Forcing him to talk about the situation before he feels ready won’t be beneficial for the healing process.

Refrain from passing judgment on your loved one’s behavior. Endless crying, lashing out, and feelings of guilt are natural parts of the grieving process. Be understanding of these behaviors and continue to provide your unwavering support.

  1. Listen

It’s not easy for your loved one to open up and talk about her loss, so make it easier on her by being a great listener. Listen silently and without judgment.

Giving your full attention to your loved one is just another way of saying “I care about you.”

In this way, sometimes the best thing you can say is nothing at all.

  1. Offer Your Assistance

Make it clear that you’re available to talk whenever he’s ready.

When you’re dealing with someone who prefers not to talk about the death of a loved one, the best way for you to show your love and support is by helping out with meals and errands for a while.

Tell them you’ll pick them up some dinner or that you’d like to go pick up the groceries. Offer to help out with house chores or child care.

Even if your loved one isn’t receptive to your verbal support right now, small acts of love and kindness like these will help send the message.

  1. Don’t Let Distance Stand in Your Way

If your loved one is miles away, the lines of communication can still be open with video chatting, phone calls, and email.

The responsibility of making the first move will likely fall on you, so be persistent but not pushy.

Ask if they’d be interested in a family conference call where a few of you can check in and catch up. Even if it’s a brief 10-minute exchange, they’ll appreciate your concern as long as you also respect their space.

No matter how you communicate–through words or through your actions–know that your intentions are all that matter.

It may feel difficult to find the right words to help make this time more bearable for your loved one. But if you’re reaching out with compassion and support, your loved one will know that you’re doing your best to help them through this difficult time.

Angela Tollersons has a passion for family health and wellness. She currently volunteers as often as possible in her community with parenting and child advocacy groups, especially those who focus on special education and anti-bullying.

When she is not updating her blog, she is usually exploring the great outdoors or playing a game of Scrabble with her family.

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