Very few people know what to say when someone has lost a loved one to death, divorce/breakup or after having a serious accident or disease.
I remember so well after our son Drisan died at the age of 4 due to cancer, a “friend” said to me shortly afterwards that she knows exactly how I feel because her dog died recently. Please note I know people love their pet “children”, and mourn in the same way. However losing a child after 2 and a half year treatment of chemo and bone marrow transplant, her words hurt me immensely. It was said because she felt she had to say something, and I know she meant no ill, but even till today, 20 years later, I remember it.
When someone is in pain or going through a loss don’t say things like: “God picks his most precious flowers first” … Really? Or “at least there is no pain anymore” It is empty meaningless words that hurt! There are some phrases you should restrict yourself from saying to someone who’s hurting. Don’t say “I know what you’re going through.” Never use the words “It could be worse”, or “Everything happens for a reason”, or “I know someone that has gone through that too.”
Don’t say “If you need anything, just call me.” They will not call you, they will be alone with their tears, depression and hurt.
You have to be there for them, visit them, take some food and above all, listen to them.
It is especially difficult when consoling a person that lost someone to death, mostly you don’t know what to say. Your deeds mean more than empty words. Strangely people think that if you don’t mention the person that died, it will help with the mourning. That is untrue, you want to talk about them. Avoiding talking about them does exactly the opposite. Talk about times when it was good, help to keep the memories alive that brings healing.
One of the biggest fears when losing someone is that you will forget what they looked like, how they smelled and sounded like. Be sensitive and if they want to talk about the lost love, listen and be part of the dialogue.
Many people think they have to say something to be helpful. But, it is worth remembering they mostly need people to just be there. Your instinct would be to start talking. But this should be resisted at all cost. Be comfortable just being there, being present and staying silent, listening when needed.
Do not let your difficulty in remaining silent or not knowing what to do or say prevent you from showing up and being present. Especially in death, during the funeral, people are so stressed, it is as though there is cotton wool inside their heads. It is afterwards when life has to go back to normal, that they need us.
Use your presence, your silence, your support and your love, but do not make it about you. Sitting with someone who is going through emotional pain and loss can often stir your own emotions related to either the past, present or anticipated future loss. You can also become emotional, because you care so much about someone who is hurting, in turn, making you either upset or helpless. God gave us one mouth and 2 ears for a reason.
Even when someone asks for advice, he or she most likely needs a sounding board, needs your support, someone to listen, knowing they are not alone. Avoid giving advice, but be generous with assistance. Offer to make coffee or some food, or even be willing to give more of your time. Concrete ways of helping will make a major difference in their life. You may judge your tasks too small, nevertheless, these basic needs carry much importance.
Support becomes more meaningful when you consistently follow up until your loved one adapts to the pain or loss. A phone call, an email or text, a brief visit after work, can all help “cement” your initial consolation.
Lastly, in all you do or say, be sure to offer authenticity and your genuine self. When sitting with your loved ones, avoid getting distracted, as much as possible. Don’t look at your cell all the time. Be there in body and spirit, and make sure to be yourself, they need you!