Grief Support Strategies

These are tips we discussed with the students.

So often as well-meaning friends, and loved ones, we don't know what to say to a person who has just experienced a loss so we say nothing at all. We fear saying the wrong thing. Grievers often feel abandoned by friends in the midst of their loss because of this.

We don’t want to abandon a family, but we want to make sure that we don’t take care of our grief by doing something that makes us feel better, but might not make the other person feel better.

Although many of the following statements we may recognize that we have said to people, it is important to understand that these statements are often not helpful. Grief is about a broken heart, yet often we speak to people's intellect as opposed to their heart.

Avoid clichés as well as these common platitudes:

Time heals all wounds. (Time doesn't heal all wounds, although healing takes time).

Your loved one is in a better place. (There is no better place for my loved one than with me).

The Lord never gives us more than we can handle. (That is not how I feel right now).

I know how you feel. (Maybe the worst thing we can say, because we never really know how someone else feels. Tends to make grievers angry).

Everything will be okay. (Believe this for the person and hold on to hope, but don’t say it out loud because it tends to feel like you are dismissing someone's grief).

Let me know if I can do anything for you. (Just show up and do something if you want to. Grievers often don't call to ask for help. Encourage them to have a list of chores, errands that need to be done so when people ask, they have something concrete to give them. People do enjoy doing for the grievers and it will give them something to do. Men especially prefer to be action oriented in their grief, so try to give the men something tangible to do).

It was God's will or God’s plan. (Many people already feel angry with God and this won't help at this time).

It all happened for the best. (This can feel shockingly painful).

At least he or she is out of pain. (Well I am not).

Be strong. (We are telling people not to cry and to hold in their feelings).

If you think this is bad, I know a family... (Please let's not compare, or minimize other's losses).

Let me tell you about my own loss, which is similar to yours. (There will be a time for you to share, but not right now. Your role is to listen and stay with the person's loss. When we bring the focus to ourselves, we leave the person in a real way. They want to not feel alone. Grief shared allows the person to feel some relief for a time before they need to gather it all up again and make it into tomorrow).

There is a reason for everything.

It was her time to go.

He was so good, God wanted him with Him.

Things to say or do when someone is grieving:

1. 1 am so sorry for your loss.

2. I’m praying for you.

3. He/She will never be forgotten.

4. You are in my thoughts.

5. I wish I had the right words, just know I care about you.

6. I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in anyway I can.

7. You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.

8. My favorite memory of your loved one is….

9. “Is it okay if I call you to check in on you? It’s okay if you don’t pick up the phone.” Or “I am always just a phone call away. “

10.I am here for you. (You need to mean it! That you will be there when they need to talk or cry or scream, etc. This is about holding the pain with them. Don’t try to take it away or “make it better,” but help to carry it by being with them in the middle of it all, sad, angry, scared, confused, lonely.)

11.Saying nothing is okay too, just there be with the person.

12.Give a hug instead of saying something (if you know the person well enough to hug them, don’t hug someone who doesn’t want a hug.) The biological benefits of touch are amazing. It soothes the central nervous system.

Some ideas of what to put in a card:

· May your heart and soul find peace and comfort.

· My sincere sympathy

· Our warmest thoughts and love.

· Remember that we love and care about you.

· Peace, Prayers and Blessings.

· We send you thoughts of peace.

· As you grieve, know that we are remembering you and honoring the memory of _______________.”