Comforting the bereaved can seem overwhelming, however it really is possible. Instead of trying to cheer up a grieving friend, focus on being supportive and helpful.
Part of being supportive is understanding grief. Another great way to be supportive is to be a great empathetic listener. These two things can do so much to comfort a hurting loved one.
When it comes to understanding grief, it’s good to learn about the five stages of grief . If you want to learn more about grief you can do so by visiting our resources.
If you don’t have the time right now to really sit down and learn this stuff then just read the next thing.
There is one thing that will only take you a moment to learn and will help you immensely in comforting the bereaved. This one thing will completely change the way that you relate to grieving individuals.
This one thing is simply taking a look at the definition of bereaved. Here it is for you convenience:
Bereaved: Having been deprived of something or someone of great value, especially by death.
Essentially, a bereaved person is someone who has been robbed. And not just robbed of something that can be replaced, but robbed of a person who is irreplaceable and priceless.
For some reason mourners are often expected to “keep it together.”
These are examples of what NOT to say.
It is common for bereaved individuals to be told such things as:
- “It is all for the best.”
- “Time will heal all wounds.”
- “God has a purpose for this.”
- “Cheer up you’ll feel better soon enough.”
- “Be strong.”
Many of the most common responses received by the bereaved do not allow for grief, but rather try to fix it or minimize it.
You would not hear a robbed person be told such things. Nor would it be helpful to someone who has just been mugged to have your pity. Even your advice would be unhelpful until the victim has at least at a chance to process what has just happened to them.
They are going to be angry, sad, bitter, hurt and have a range of strong emotions that fluctuate wildly. You wouldn’t expect someone who has been recently robbed to be “over it.” Instead, you would expect that they are going to need to talk about it. They are going to describe what happened and how they feel about it several times at least. And it’s going to haunt them for awhile, perhaps for the rest of the lives.
In the Old Testament of the Bible we see instances where the bereaved wail loudly and tear their clothes. That’s probably about what we should expect. Yet, we don’t. Why is that? Maybe we should. Maybe we should expect our grief stricken friends to act like they were just robbed. They don’t need pity or advice, but rather the acceptance to feel everything they are feeling. They need for others around them to consider the range of emotional expression and grief to be valid.
Understanding this will help you have the proper expectation and response to grief. You can take this understanding and be a comforting presence by being a good listener.
Now, here is the thing about being a good listener:
Just about everybody thinks that they are a good listener. Very few people are actually good listeners.
Fortunately, empathetic listening is a learned skill set. You can be taught how to do it. You might need to practice it a bit and see it modeled, but you can definitely learn.
Comforting the Bereaved with Cards and Letters
Sending a card is really a simple, but meaningful way to let someone know that you care.
Sympathy cards and letters don’t need to say much. They need to say the right thing though. Keep them simple in order to keep them supportive.
Practical Ways to Help Someone Grieving the Loss of A Loved One
From housework to help with sympathy thank you cards, there are many practical ways to help a grieving friend or relative. Free printable “Thinking of You” coupons you can print out and send in a card.
Provide Meals or a Sympathy Food Basket for a Grieving Family
Sympathy food whether it is a gift basket or a home cooked meal can be a tremendous blessing. We have practical tips and ideas to help you. If you want to provide a week’s worth or meals for a grieving co-worker or friend, we have free printable resources to help you.