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Simple Sympathy

Offering Words of Comfort to a Grieving Friend

in Supporting Grief

Many of us struggle to find words of comfort for a grieving friend. Most people are not comfortable around hurting individuals.
It can be difficult to strike the balance between being sensitive and being overly concerned about a hurting loved one.
Grieving individuals sometimes wish that their friends and family would not feel awkward around them or walk on egg shells around them. At the same time, it is also baffling how many people are careless with their words.

An easy way to walk this fine line is to ask the right questions to encourage dialogue.
Ask non-invasive and open-ended questions, such as:

  • “How are you coping today?”
  •  “Do you want to talk about…”
  • “Do you need to vent any feelings?”

It is also safe to say:

  • “I am so sorry for your loss.”
  •  “It is OK to cry.”
  • “I’ll be right here, if you need a listening ear.”
  • “Could I help you…”

Share a Memory to Comfort a Grieving Friend

Some of the best words of comfort are simple stories and statements that help the bereaved remember their loved one. To come up with some ideas try finishing one of the following sentences.

  •  I remember when…
  • My favorite thing about (Jim) was…
  • I’ll never forget the way (Carol) helped me…
  •  It seems like just yesterday (Trent) was…
  • When I first met (Tom) he….

 

Why a Solution Will Not Fix Anything

Advice and solutions are not words of comfort. In fact, they can be very hurtful. Pat answers and phrases such as, “It was for the best” or “Time will heal all wounds” are not comforting. Saying these statements trivializes the pain and grief a person is experiencing. Offer words of comfort that validate the mourner’s feelings.
There is not much you can say to make a grieving person feel better. Instead listen and focus on understanding, as opposed to problem solving. Your goal is not to take away the grief, but to share the burden.
See this complete list of sympathy phrases to avoid.

Your Most Valuable Skill as a Friend

More than any other thing you do to help a grieving friend, the most important thing is to listen. Be somebody that they can talk to and vent to. Allow them to share their frustration and anger. Provide a shoulder to cry on. Simply being present can bring comfort and security.
Some people instinctively know how to be a good listener, while others are less helpful. I have found the skill of empathetic listening to not only be invaluable to all of my relationships, but to also be critical when trying to comfort somebody who is upset or angry.