Nothing you can say will help. As hugs are shared, hands are shaken, and people are met in the days that follow a loved one’s passing, countless words of encouragement are shared. Know that nothing you say can really help to ease the pain. Most people know that, but the words keep coming. Maybe it’s the North American culture – we don’t handle silence well. Know this: It’s okay to say nothing at all, just give a hug. Don’t talk for the sake of talking. Those left behind are exhausted already and appreciate you being there as a show of support and encouragement
Knowing you care will help. Many people attend the visitation or the funeral, and sometimes, both. Families appreciate the compassion and sympathy. Just knowing that people care enough take time to adjust their schedules is meaningful. Be sure to make an effort and pay your respects; it’s honouring to the family.
Offer a meal. Families don’t want to spend their time preparing meals and dealing with clean up. For those providing meals, offer ones that can be frozen for later to help take a load off. In the immediate hours and days that follow a loved one’s death, there are numerous other tasks that take over. A meal helps to ease the burden in those first few days and weeks that follow.
There is something you can do. It’s common to say, “If there’s anything we can do, don’t hesitate to ask.” Those who come forward with practical support is helpful – whether it’s needed finances, movie tickets to get out for a night, or any other practical need. Look for a need and then be the blessing that is needed. It’s such a good feeling for the family. If a family member calls later to take you up on your offer for support, be sure to keep your word to help out.
Let the family express their thoughts and feelings. Your thoughts and feelings are yours alone. Those going through grief have theirs as well and as well-meaning as you may be, you don’t know how they feel. Let them be comfortable to have and express their feelings as they need to. Don’t criticize them or try to convince them to change. It’s a process.
Don’t try to be a replacement. You might be a great person with plenty to offer, but you will never replace the person who passed away. That relationship was special, a one of a kind. Just be yourself; be that friend or other family member that you were before – that’s your unique relationship.
Time is what they need. In the immediate days that follow a death, other family and friends are quick to rally around and provide comfort. It’s wonderful. It’s appreciated. But mourners need their own time, too. By all means, check in from time to time, but allow them time to grieve. It’s needed and it’s healthy. Please don’t rush the process.
Everyone has a story. You can help to comfort a family and give lasting memory to the story of a lost loved one.