•Just be there.
Even if you don’t know what to say, the fact that you are there does provide some comfort. Offer a hug and a shoulder to cry on. Not easy to do, but oh so helpful.
•Acknowledge the loss in an honest way.
Avoid euphemisms like “passed on”, use the word died or killed. Example: “I heard that your father died. I am so sorry for your loss”.
•Be a good listener.
You cannot fix things, so don’t offer advice, or tell them how they should feel or what they should do. Just listen... that is what he needs most right now, quiet support. It’s called “therapeutic silence”.
•Share fond memories of the deceased.
Do not make his or her name “taboo”. The bereaved need very much to talk it out and they love to hear stories of their lost one. Be patient when they retell the same story over-and-over. Story-telling is part of the healing process.
•Never tell them that you know how they feel because your cousin died last year.
Comparing tragedies or losses is NEVER helpful.
•Bereavement can make us feel helpless and awkward.
It’s okay to be honest about it and say something like: “I’m not sure what to say to you, but I want you to know I care”.
Never utter these words
Most of the trite sayings below seem to imply that the mourner should get past it or somehow avoid the pain of loss.
This is not realistic or healthy, and certainly not helpful.
•I know how you feel.
•It’s just God’s plan.
•Just look at all the things you have to be thankful for.
•He’s in a better place now.
•God needed another angel.
•She’s not suffering anymore.
•He’s at peace now.
•It was for the best.
•Life is for the living.
•You’ve still got your__ (other kids, spouse).
•Don’t cry... crying only upsets you.
•All things must pass.
•She led a full life.
•God will never give you more than you can handle.
And the prize-winners for mean and thoughtless things to say:
•”You’re young, you can always have more children”.
•”There are more fish in the sea” (lost a spouse).
•”Well, you need to be the man of the house now” (to 12 year old boy).
(Yes, thoughtless people really do say things like that).
Recover from grief