How To Be With Others In Grief - adapted from David Kessler’s - the needs of the grieving
Grief needs to be witnessed. The grieving heart needs to be seen, heard and felt by the listener. They need to feel validated in their loss, this is achieved through affirmation from others. Witnessing another’s grief does not include judgement or advice. Just being present and attentive as they tell their story will provide a great deal of comfort.
Avoid platitudes It’s hard to see others in pain. Our human nature wants to find a way to stop someone from suffering. Although our words may be coming from a desire to help, often times what we do say is not helpful and may make them feel as though they aren’t trying hard enough to “move on”. Avoid phrases that include: “at least”, “you need to be strong”, “they are in a better place now”, “your loved one wouldn’t want you to be sad”. Instead choose phrases that provide validation of their feelings such as “it’s understandable that you would be feeling this way”.
Follow their lead Listen, Listen,Listen and then listen some more. Allow them to feel what they are feeling. Respect their timing on how long they want to discuss something. Be comfortable with silence. Don’t compare losses Their loss is their loss, even if you have experienced something similar avoid comparing losses. Should they ask you how you coped with your loss, explain only from your own experience and not from a place of telling them to do things the way you did.
Ask how you can help Offer specific, practical help. This could be that they need you to just sit with them or it could be as practical as taking out their garbage for them every week for a while. Often people in grief don’t know what they are needing at the time. Offering some suggestions may be the place to start.