Laura Nelson shares 7 ways to bring comfort to those in your life who are grieving.
Are you at a loss for words when you try to comfort someone who’s grieving? You’re not alone. It’s so hard to know what to say. You want to give them comfort and encouragement, but you don’t know how. You want to take away their pain but, you can’t. So, what do you do?
Before 2005, I couldn’t give you an answer to that question. But, after losing my sister that year, losing my mom in 2018, and losing my dad just a few months ago, I have a much better idea of how you can support the people in your life that are grieving.
I was talking to a friend last night whose mom is 95 (the same age my dad was when he left us) and she said, “Laura, when my mom goes to be with the Lord, if anyone tells me how lucky I was to have her as long as I did, I’m going to punch them in the mouth!” I laughed because I knew exactly what she meant. It doesn’t matter how long your parents live, you still want one more moment, hour, day, week, or year with them. They’re still your mom or your dad even when they’re in their 80s, 90s, or 100s. And you still miss them when they go.
In an effort to help my friend in advance, here are a few suggestions of ways to bring comfort to those in your life who are grieving. (Note: These suggestions are not an exhaustive list, and everyone grieves differently. I’m not a psychologist or a therapist but these approaches have been helpful to me.)
7 Ways to Offer Comfort to Those Who Are Grieving
- Be Present. The biggest gift you can give the grieving is your physical and emotional presence. Show up for the funeral or Rosary if at all possible. If you can’t, send a card or flowers or even a meal just to let them know you’re thinking of them. They may never acknowledge this, but it does matter to them—and they will feel the love behind your action, which is the best comfort you can give them.
- Keep it Simple. Saying, “I’m sorry” and giving an appropriate hug goes a long way. You really don’t need to say much else.
- Pray for Them. Tell them that you’re praying for God to comfort them and for the soul of their loved one and actually DO IT. It helps to be specific when sharing that you’ll pray for them, so they know it’s not just an empty platitude. “I am praying that God comforts you with His loving mercy and that He welcomes (Name) into His heavenly embrace.” Or “May his/her soul rest in peace.” But, it doesn’t have to be flowery or even eloquent. Be yourself. “I’m praying that God is with you right now,” is perfect.
- Acknowledge Their Feelings. Let them know that you see their suffering even if they’re not showing it openly. “I can’t imagine what you must be going through right now,” and “This must be so difficult for you,” are good phrases to use. Avoid saying that you know EXACTLY what they’re going through. Even if you’ve had a similar experience, everyone’s grief is unique and deserves to stand on its own. And, of course, for my friend’s sake, please DON’T say “You were lucky to have them for as long as you did.”
- Relate to Your Experience ... BUT. If your friend lost their elderly parent, don’t compare it to the time your pet died. But also, don’t compare it to the time you lost someone to a grisly murder either. The loss of a pet can be painful but it can be hurtful to compare the loss of a human life to the loss of an animal life. And, if you’ve been through a more tragic and traumatic death event (such as death due to a violent crime), allow them to experience their grief without comparing it to yours and feeling like their emotions aren’t valid.
- Invite Them to Share with You. One of the hardest things about grief is the desire to talk about and remember the deceased without making other people feel sad. If you didn’t know the deceased, ask your friend about them. Give them a space to keep their memory alive without worrying it will cause pain to other people.
- When in Doubt ... See #1 & #2.
These are just a few suggestions to help you navigate the pain of others. How have you offered comfort—or received comfort that has made a difference?
Copyright 2022 Laura Nelson
About the Author
Laura B. Nelson is a Catholic wife and mother of three children. She is also a Catholic blogger, author, speaker, teacher and life-long student of the Catholic faith. Laura likes to be busy but she most enjoys spending time with her husband and three children at their home in Grapevine, TX. Find out more about Laura at LauraBNelson.com.