How To Comfort a Friend or Family Member Who Is Grieving
No one wants to watch a friend or family member suffering with grief
It’s a painful emotion to observe in anyone but even more so when it’s our friend or a family member. It’s also instinctual to want to ease their pain and sorrow over their loss and offer them comfort. Sometimes, because we cannot change the fact that someone has died, we feel inadequate; we feel we can’t be helpful. While it’s true we cannot bring back the deceased person to our grieving friend or family member, we can ease their distress and comfort them. Here are my thoughts on how to go about it.
First, be empathic by opening yourself up to the other person’s pain and staying present to them. By that I mean be aware of their body language, their tears and sighs, their words or even their lack of words.
Second, make an effort to visit your grieving friend or relative as soon as you can after hearing of his or her loss, particularly if the person who has died was a significant part of their life. Also, when possible and appropriate, make a concerted effort to attend the service or memorial because your bereaved friend or relative will always remember those who took the time to come.
Third, remind your friend or family member of some meaningful times you remember about their deceased loved one. For example, “Marilyn, your mom was so smart and funny. I remember when we were kids and how she dressed up during the holiday as Santa’s elf. She always made people happy. I’m so sorry for your loss.” Or, “Joe, your dad, my Uncle Joe, was the most patient man I ever knew. I remember his years of kindness and devotion to your mom after her stroke. He was my favorite uncle and always will be.”
Fourth, take your friend or relative's hand, touch them on the shoulder, hug them. Their body hurts now; it is aching with the absence of the lost person. Your compassionate touch will be merciful and comforting.
Fifth, tell them you will be there for them no matter how long they need to grieve. You see, the world wants us to hurry up and get on with things. This demand – whether from society or other people in your friend or relative's life – doesn’t work with the grieving process because loss, as love, is embedded deep in our souls and mourning cannot be rushed.
Sixth, send a note, a card, an email or text every few weeks or so telling your friend or relative you are thinking about them.
Seventh, remove from your speech this sentence: “I know how you feel.” No one really knows how we feel even when the circumstances are similar; each person has his or her own unique experience of what losing that person means.
Eighth, comfort your friend or relative with a few hopeful reminders that they, too, will be able to manage and survive this sad period. Comfort your friend by saying you will pray for them; that you grieve with them and the Lord above knows they are sad.
I like the thought of being an agent of comfort and mercy. I like remembering the beatitude, "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." We all need that when we are hurting. We all need to know that the Lord won't leave us abandoned in our sorrow.