If you haven’t experienced it yet, you probably will. It can make you uncomfortable, unsure, and a bit nervous. It is that moment when you first talk to someone who is grieving about the loss of a loved one. You want to be kind, supportive, caring, and most importantly, you don’t want to say anything wrong.
You should first consider that you are not alone. Everyone has the same or similar feelings. You would love to say something that is healing, memorable, or profound. You certainly don’t want to be trite. Yet you don’t want to be remembered as being insensitive or uncaring. Here are some thoughts:
Those grieving are likely in some mild form of shock. Time stands still for them during final services, and many expressions of sympathy may actually go unregistered. Start by taking pressure off of yourself.
You also should consider that a grieving person may not remember so much about what you say as how you make them feel. This is why a two-handed handshake or heartfelt hug can convey as much as any words.
That being said, you may still struggle with the right words.
Avoid transferring their loss to your own. “I know how you feel” may ring hollow to a grieving person. You certainly don’t want to assume you know their situation. “He’s probably better off” or “He’s in a better place” may be presumptuous.
So what should you say? Are there some non-offensive and supportive phrases you can count on when in doubt? Here are a few:
- “I’m so sorry.”
- “I am thinking about you and your family.”
- “Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.”
- “I can cook, clean, watch your children, shop, or take care of your pets.”
- “I would be honored to help.”
- “Please take care of yourself.”
- “So many people care about you.”
- “Let me know if you need someone to talk to.”
It is important to comfort the grieving person without assuming you know how they feel. Let them take the lead, and they will often tell you what kind of support they need. Wait for them to introduce any conversation involving religious beliefs.
Again, how you make them feel is more important than what you say. Be genuine, and remember that, in some instances, less may be more.
At the Cremation Society of Greater Cincinnati, our goal is to provide final services that are dignified, respectful, and healing. We understand our place is to serve as professionals while being guided by the grieving family. Whether you are in current need or are preplanning, we would be so grateful and honored to assist you.
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