Communication from the Heart


So what can you say if you really want to help a grieving friend or loved one? First, say what you feel with sincerity and honesty. Don't try to provide a theological reason for the suffering or an otherworldly explanation for an untimely death. Phrases such as, "It was God's will," can provoke anger or resentment and often add torment to torment. Let grievers search for their own spiritual significance of loss.

If your friend wants to talk about God, by all means listen, but please don't reason away the pain and suffering of loss with your own viewpoint. Keep in mind that what aids, comforts, or strengthens you may be offensive or meaningless to someone else. Be careful not to press your beliefs onto others.

The most important thing to remember is that grief hurts and your friend is in pain. Spiritual people are just as likely as anyone else to suffer intense feelings of loss in the throes of grief. The following comments open the door to real communication from the heart because they acknowledge the pain of loss through understanding, acceptance and respect.

Statements that offer genuine support and comfort to your grieving friend include:

This must be very hard (or painful) for you.

I am thinking of you.

I want you to know that I'm here to listen.

It's okay to be angry.
Grievers don't need your approval for anger, but sometimes just knowing that they are safe with you no matter how they are feeling opens the door later to real communication.

I loved (_______), too.

I am sorry.

I care about you.

I love you.

You are important to me.

I want to help you.
Make suggestions yourself on how to help because your friend may not be thinking clearly. Refer to Start Today
 for ideas on how to help.

I am praying for you.
Only if you think this will comfort the bereaved. Sometimes grievers are too angry at God, especially in the beginning, for any offer of prayer to be much comfort.

I'll call you next week.
Then pick up the phone and make the call as promised. Be prepared to listen without the need to change the subject or fix things.

What mattered most to me in the days following my mother's death was the presence of others who loved her, or loved me, or loved us both. A dear friend said to me, "There are no words I can offer. I am just here to be with you in your suffering." That was truly comforting. My friend didn't need to say anything profound. Her presence was all that I needed.

The deaths of both my parents have taught me a lot about expressing sympathy to those in acute grief. I know that the most painful aspects of grief come long after the funeral is over, but in the time immediately after a death grievers are ultra-sensitive to the comments of others. I also know that my good intentions can pave the road to a place I don't want to go.

I can summarize in one sentence what I've learned about interacting with those who mourn: Keep it simple and honest while acknowledging the pain of loss. A hug, a listening ear, sharing a sweet memory, a thoughtful card, a handwritten note
, gentle poetry, the silence of honest tears, or a simple I'm sorry offer comfort in the dark. 


Go to next page: Writing Letters of Condolence

The Grieving Heart is getting a new home...
Grief has no timetable, but the launch of a new website does: August 1, 2019.                                                                     
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How complicated and individual mending is,
the time required for healing
cannot be measured against any fixed calendar
Mary Jane Moffat
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