Knowing how to talk to someone about their loss is never easy at any time, yet alone when someone you care about has just lost a loved one. We all feel that internal urge to try and help, to be a good friend or family member and to be a good person. It is also natural for us to feel a sense of conflict, knowing that we want to help but not really knowing what to say or do. It can feel daunting, with a lingering fear that we may say the wrong thing or even worse, make the person who is experiencing the grief upset or even more hurt. This is all perfectly fine and natural; you should feel no guilt in feeling this way but when the time is right to talk about it, this guide may help you avoid any unintentional mishaps!
Talk to someone about their loss: Listen, listen and then listen some more
Never has the famous quote ‘we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak’ been more appropriate than when being in the presence of someone grieving. Especially if you have a close bond with the person, there is a good chance that you will be their avenue to vent all their thoughts, feelings, and memories of the one they have lost. Sometimes you may not even have to say anything at all to them, you just being there for them at such a challenging time can make the world of difference.
Be sensitive around what you say
A lot of people fall foul of this one, not because they are nasty or that they are intentionally trying to say something hurtful but because a lot of things we think are comforting to say may not actually be that comforting to the person on the receiving end of it. It is often tempting to say phrases like “he/she is in a better place” or “everything will be better in time” but this offers little comfort to the person who is at one of their lowest points in life and if anything, it detracts from the hurt they are experiencing.
Another area that is better off remaining unsaid is religious comments, even if the bereaved is a religious person. Saying things like ‘she’s in a better place’ or ‘it must have been God’s plan for her’ may bring out their anger in their God or belief while saying it to an atheist may come across as insulting or undermining. Only comment on religion if they bring it up, aligning yourself with their views to offer comfort, if they do not bring it up then it is better off not being brought up at all...
Do not compare their grief to other people who you know have experienced grief
Us humans are a unique bunch, with no two of us being the same, so it is important to refrain from trying to comfort the person by making comparisons such as “My mother got over my father’s death within 6 months” as this may set unrealistic targets in their mind or make them feel worse about how bad they are feeling in the present. Grief and the grieving period do not come as a set number or target, everyone will figure out their own way to deal with grief and the grieving period will be different for everybody.
They may say something they do not mean and that is okay
A whole host of emotions can be going through someone’s mind after the death of a loved one, it is a particularly challenging time and the stress, heartbreak or disruption may lead to them saying something they do not mean. If you are on the receiving end of this, then try your best to not take it to heart and do not let it upset you. Grief spurs a lot of emotion and anger may be one of those. As well all know, it is easy to say something we do not mean when we are angry.
Just be yourself
You do not need to be a knight in shining armour, or the best advice giver in the world; you just need to be you! We are only human, and it is perfectly okay to say things like “I just don’t know what to say” when you genuinely do not know what to say. Being a genuine friend is all that someone can ask of you and the person on the receiving end of your friendship will take great comfort in the fact that you are still the same way that you have always been around them. You never need to pretend to be someone you are not.
Talking about death when it occurs to those closest to you will never be easy, it is an unfortunate part of being human that will affect us all at some stage. Though it is not easy, it is never as hard as our minds may make it out to be. Take comfort in the fact that the person must have a lot of respect for you, to have you around at such a tough time. Do not let your mind put you off, you are more than up for the task of being there for your loved ones and hopefully this article has made you feel a little more confident for when the times comes. Never forget that you can make an amazing difference to someone at one of their darkest moments.