What Can I Say…Or Do?

by Taru Fisher on December 1, 2015

During the holidays, there are many of us who are experiencing grief or deep sadness: for loved ones who have died, for traumatic experiences from our past, for situations we are in, for family we wish we had.

I want to share with you something that has helped me, from my wonderful friend Chandrama Anderson.

Chandrama is a licensed MFT who specializes in counseling couples and people who are grieving the loss of a child. She wrote a wonderful little pamphlet titled: “The Language of Grieving: A Brief Guide to Comforting a Grieving Friend or Loved One”, downloadable by clicking on the link.

Here are some of her suggestions about condolence etiquette that resonate strongly with me.

  • Acknowledge the Loss – saying nothing or pretending the death didn’t happen hurts the person.
  • Show you care – a bereaved person needs to have the death acknowledged, to have empathy, care and support, and most importantly, to hear words that allow them to feel whatever they are feeling at the moment.
  • Allow the grieving person to take the lead in conversations – it’s helpful for the one who is grieving to talk with you as they normally would, and even to be able to laugh!
  • Allow the bereaved to tell, and even re-tell the story of the death of their loved one. It helps as they work through their grief and mourning.
  • Speak of the loved one who has died. It helps the bereaved feel less isolated and know he or she has not been forgotten. Asking permission can make this discussion less awkward for the condoler, “Is it OK if I talk about Mike once in awhile?”
  • Avoid religious platitudes as they may deny the bereaved permission to feel what they feel.
  • The journey through grieving has no roadmap or timetable. Remembering and talking about the loved one’s important dates such as birthdays, holidays, etc. can bring solace and comfort to the bereaved.

When you download the PDF file, you will find an incredibly helpful couple of lists: Words That DO Comfort and Words That DO NOT Comfort. So, rather than list them all here (there are lots of them), download her pamphlet.

What you can say and do…

  • You can use the Comfort Words to help yourself, e.g., using them (some of them are questions) in journaling or talking to yourself.
  • You can share them with loved ones so they know what helps and can support you with this different language.
  • You can use them with loved ones and friends who are grieving.
  • Remember the distinction between empathy and sympathy (see our previous FaceBook post – courtesy of Brené Brown – for a refresher). People who are experiencing difficult emotions and situations need empathy, not sympathy.
  • You can spread loving kindness to yourself and to others with the language you use.

This post was written by Taru Fisher

Previous post:

Next post:

© 2013-2024 Alive Fitness Studio LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Privacy Statement and Terms of Service