In a word, don’t.
And I say that because unless you know what you are doing, you might cause more grief and hurt. Most of us get anxious around people who grieve because we are scared of loss ourselves, even if we are not conscious of it. Most of us don’t know how to behave around loss and grief, even if we have experienced some personal loss of our own.
If you really want to help, just be Present for them. People have their own grieving processes. Everyone is different. If need be, you tap for your own anxiety and helplessness around loss and grief.
Some of the LEAST helpful things to say when some one has lost a loved one:
Don’t worry, you’ll get over it, you’ll be all right.
It’s meant to happen.
Now you are the man of the house.
He has gone to heaven.
I know how you feel.
Don’t cry, it’s all right.
What did you do to make that happen…. why didn’t you….
Change yourself to change others….
If you have to say something, here’s a suggestion from someone who had recently lost a loved one.
“I dont know what to do or say but I’m here for you. I’m here to support you in the way that you need me to. I don’t have the answers and may be I’m scared that I will say/do the wrong thing, so may be I may seem uncomfortable. But I’m here for you.”
If you have some experience with personal tragedy, and have suggestions for people who want to “help”, please feel free to comment – what was most helpful? what was least helpful? how did you want to be supported?
In memory of Daniel Herrmann.