The Most comforting comment you can make to someone who’s grieving is simply “I’m sorry, I’m sorry”
TAKE THE INITIATIVE IN OFFERING PRACTICAL HELP. Try not to ask “what can I do?” People in crisis may be in shock, the may scarcely be able to hear “What can I do” let alone respond to it. So the biggest help may be to make a specific offer. “Ill cover your next trip so you can go home” “I’ll take care of the dog for you” –“I’m bringing dinner tomorrow, if you don’t need it just stick it in the freezer”
DON’T BE AFRAID OF INTRUDING. People need human contact. They’ll signal whether or not you’re needed.
DON’T SAY “I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL”. Each loss is unique, even people who have experienced similar tragedies have not lost this particular person in this particular way. However it is helpful to simply share your own coping from loss. “At times I thought I couldn’t bake it-that I was crazy-I had to find things to do to keep myself sane. We all cope as we must when faced with the unbearable.” By simply sharing your own experiences you allow the person to relate to them.
DON’T ASK YOUR FRIEND TO LOOK FOR A SILVER LINING. There is no silver lining when grief overwhelms us. When we try to minimize tragedy it’s not only ineffective but may add guild on the person who is suffering.
WRITE A LETTER OR CONDOLENCE. A personal letter, no matter how short or awkward gives strength and comfort. The most meaningful letters are those which describe happy memories.
BE REALISTIC. Accept the reality of what has happened. Especially those with an irreparable loss. Examples: severe injury which shuts someone out of river guiding, aging effects which can’t be reversed, etc.
CONTINUE TO SEE YOUR FRIEND SOCIALLY. Social interaction is particularly important to those suffering from a relationship break up, a friend who has lost a mate through divorce or death needs special reassurance that they are still valued.
RECOGNIZE THAT IT TAKES TIME TO RECOVER. Each person is different but a friend will allow the grieving person to take whatever time needed to heal.
“Your caring presence and your willingness to listen are the two most precious gifts you can offer a friend in crisis”. — Lois Duncan
BE THERE TO CARE AND TO LISTEN. The people who are most helpful are those who make no attempt to distract the grieving person from the grief. Instead they encourage their friend to talk and share which allows the intensity of the pain to lessen and makes it possible for the to begin the healing process.
DON’T BE HURT IF YOUR HELP IS NOT ACCEPTED. It may not be the right time or unsuited for their present needs. Remember your role is to be understanding, not understood, you can offer help later again, when it is needed more. After others have turned back to their own concerns, you may be the only one there to hold out a helping hand.