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How to Comfort the Grieving

Wednesday Stories

Written by MJ Reporter Willow LaMunyon

You want to comfort a friend who has lost someone dear to you, but you don't know how to express your caring, so you avoid them. I understand because I have done the same thing until I was the one to experience loss.

The deaths of my mother then my father were very heartbreaking times, but I expected to outlive them. I learned the meaning of death from my parent's passing. My husband comforted me as I comforted him at the loss of his parents. Cards and kind words did indeed make a difference. My parents had lived long and good lives, as had the parents of many friends, and words of comfort came easily.

When my husband died, it became difficult for people to know how to comfort me. I understood this since I had been in their position before. Because of the experience of having been on both sides of caring and grief, maybe the things I have learned will help others know how to be a caring friend in sad times.

Doing nothing is the most hurtful thing for a person who has experienced loss. If you can't bring yourself to visit or call, sending a card does make a difference. If it is a month or more after the death, send a card anyway. Those late cards are very appreciated because they affirm that the loved one and those left behind haven't been forgotten.

If you attend a funeral or visit the grieving person's home, there are many ways you can express yourself but do remember a person who has experienced a major loss is feeling sensitive. Should you say something upsetting, please apologize, then let it go. They are not mad at you but in desperate need of an outlet for strong emotions.

Should you attend the funeral of someone you don't know well, the family will appreciate your being there, and saying, "I am sorry for your loss," is appropriate.

For those close, please, please don't tell them you are sorry for their loss. Stop after I'm sorry, so they will know you feel the loss as well. Not saying anything and giving a hug or holding their hand with both of yours for a few seconds may be the most meaningful thing to do of all.

Flowers, including those from grocery stores, are often but not always welcome if the bereaved ask people to give to a charity instead. When doing this, be sure to know the grieving person well enough to be aware of what is best for them if you can do both the charity and floral gift. It is especially nice.

On the practical side, bring food in a dish if there will be a lot of family staying for a few days. Please be sure the food container can be thrown away instead of returned. Put your name, address, and what you brought in a card with the food. Believe me; this is so appreciated. It isn't the time for them to have to cook or do household chores. Paper plates and such are always appreciated. However, the most important thing to bring is yourself.

Let the person in mourning take the lead on talking about their loved one. Sometimes it can be wonderful to share thoughts and memories, while other times, talking about them is too painful. Give an opening that is clear such as "Would you like to talk about your loved one?"

Here are a few don'ts. Avoid saying he or she is in a better place. An emotionally hurting person might think of it as, what was wrong with being with me? Don't you dare say anything about hell, no matter what the circumstances of death. That is mean-spirited. If you were couple friends, the one left needs you all the more. Please continue to include him or her in your activities.

Most of all, be there, even if it is in awkward silence.

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