How to Show Sympathy and Empathy to Comfort a Grieving Friend


Sympathy and Empathy are closely related yet different. Sympathy will cause you to care enough to want to help a grieving friend. It will fill you with compassion and pity, but empathy will enable you to be understanding and share in another’s feelings.
Sympathy and empathy combined can help you provide the right kind of support for bereaved friends and family.

Listening with Empathy: The Road to Understanding

Listening empathically brings understanding and helps a grieving person to release their emotions in a safe environment.
Empathetic listening is actually much easier than advice giving.
You don’t have to worry about finding a solution or something very clever to say. Most of all, your time and energy will be better spent. It might surprise you how much more empathy skills are appreciated, than advice.

The Secret to Helping a Friend Deal with Grief is Empathetic Listening

Grief is easier to deal with when it is shared. You can help unburden a friend by simply letting her share how she feels.
While you are listening, really try to understand how she is feeling. When she pauses for feedback, briefly summarize the essence of what you believe she is saying.
It might sound a bit like this:
• It seemed to you that…
• You’re really feeling…
• You are unsure about…
• You are hoping that…
Limit your feedback to one or two sentences. Simply recap the heart of what she is saying and let her continue on.
Don’t make directive statements like:
• I think you should…
• If I were you, I’d just…
• There is a great book about…

Have you ever tried having a serious discussion with someone while they were doing something else?
Even just fidgeting with a watch or ring can be distracting.
While you are listening, rest your hands on your lap. You should be calm and attentive.
Maintain comfortable eye contact and have an open posture, with uncrossed arms.
A great way to look interested is to actually be interested. Watch facial expressions, and gestures. Look for clues as to how she is feeling. Think about what is she trying to express?

Empathic Listening Leads to Healing

Listen in such a way that a flood of words and emotions can be expressed.
You can be a support to a bereaved friend and help her deal with grief by understanding the importance and sympathy and empathy.
Many things are happening during empathic listening that promotes healing.
The grieving person is expressing painful emotions, her feelings are being validated, thoughts and fears are being put into perspective, she is finding her own solutions and answers.
All of this sharing is good and because of it, she is experiencing a temporary relief from the burden of grief.

The Wonderful Feeling of Being Understood

This kind of listening is really amazing. Often times people are so grateful to actually be heard, they will talk for a very long time. Then they will say, “Wow, thanks for listening for long, I’m really starting to feel better.”
Empathetic listening can bring so much clarity to the speaker, it will seem like you did much more than you actually did. If you are successful it will be because of what you didn’t do, such as, not giving advice and solutions.
Being a good listener really is not difficult and it can make a world of difference to for bereaved friends and relatives.