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5 Ways to Comfort the Bereaved

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When a friend or family member is grieving the loss of a loved one, it’s normal to feel helpless. We all want to say and do the right thing, but not everyone knows how.

Keep in mind each person experiences grief differently. What comforts you may not have the same effect on others. That’s why the most important action you can take for a grieving friend or family member is to simply be there during their time of need. Remind them that they’re not alone in this process.

When strapped for words, take into consideration these simple ways to comfort the bereaved and show you care.

1. Validate Their Emotions

Following a loss, grief can manifest itself in many forms, including feelings of anger, fear and guilt. While it may be difficult at first, it’s important to acknowledge the situation with encouraging words like, “I can’t imagine the hurt you are feeling, but I am here to listen.” Validating their emotions can go a long way in the healing process.  

At times, the bereaved may not want you to say or do anything. Instead, they just need someone to be present. Allow them to vent to you without offering any judgement or advice, and avoid minimizing his or her loss by comparing situations—everyone’s grief journey is unique. A caring and comforting presence shows them that they have a support system during this difficult time.

2. Share Your Favorite Memories

If you were close to the person who passed, don’t be afraid to share your favorite memories with the bereaved. It’s comforting for them to know that others are feeling a similar sense of grief. Looking through photo albums is a great way to revisit your favorite moments and stories with the person who passed. Or, consider visiting a location of significance—like his or her favorite coffee shop or the park they used to walk in—that the lost loved one once enjoyed.

3. Attend a Support Group with the Bereaved 

Grief support groups can be intimidating, as they require the grieving to talk about their emotions and address their feelings in front of others. Despite the initial discomfort, support groups are an excellent resource for individuals grappling with loss and looking for tools to better manage their emotions.

Offering your presence at a support group will remind them that they are not alone on their grief journey. Even if you don’t participate, being there to calm their nerves encourages them to express their feelings in a safe and support environment.

4. Be Specific When You’re Offering Help

Grief causes an overwhelming amount of emotions. At times, even the simplest activities seem impossible to perform, so offer practical support to help them accomplish necessary tasks. A few examples include cooking a meal, mowing the lawn or even assisting with organizing the deceased’s belongings. Some of these tasks may have once been a priority completed by the person who passed.

When struggling with what to say or do, ask yourself, “What would I need help with if the roles were reversed?” The smallest bit of support goes a long way.

5. Stay in Touch on a Regular Basis

There’s no timeline to grief, so remember to check in on your family member or friend on a regular basis. During dates of significance or the holiday season, grief can heighten, increasing one’s sense of loss. Special holidays, like Mother’s and Father’s Day, as well as anniversaries and birthdays, make the absence of a loved one more prevalent. Simply saying, “I’m thinking of you during the holiday season,” reminds them that they’re never truly alone.

Get Access to Grief Support Resources on Your Journey Towards Healing

If someone you know recently lost a loved one, encourage him or her to get the grief support they need. Our weekly newsletter, A Journey Towards Healing offers grief support tips to connect the bereaved with reliable information as they embark on life after a loss. Not to mention, subscribers receive weekly emails across an entire year of their grief experience.

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