Comforting someone in times of distress or sorrow can be a delicate and challenging task. Often, our intentions are good, but the execution may fall short of providing the solace and support our friends and co-workers need. It's completely normal to feel uncertain about how to support someone who is grieving. The fear of making matters worse or intruding on their grief can be paralysing. However, it's essential not to let these concerns prevent you from reaching out to them. In this guide, we'll provide you with easy-to-follow tips to offer the right kind of support when they need it most.
The Don'ts - Or the worst ways to comfort someone in grief
#1 Don't Minimise Their Feelings
Don't try to put a positive spin on their situation or say things like "It could be worse" or "Look on the bright side." Minimising their pain can invalidate their emotions.
#2 Don't Compare or Compete
Don't compare their experience to your own or anyone else's. Everyone's pain is unique, and making it about yourself can be hurtful and dismissive.
#3 Avoid Unsolicited Advice
Don't try to comfort someone by offering unsolicited advice, unless they specifically ask for it. Telling them what to do can be overwhelming and may not align with their needs or beliefs.
#4 Don't Push Them to Talk
Don't pressure them to talk or share more than they are comfortable with. Respect their pace and boundaries. Pushing them to open up can create additional stress.
#5 Steer Clear of Clichés
Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to say when someone passes away. However, don't rely on clichés like "Everything happens for a reason" or "Time heals all wounds." These phrases can sound insincere and dismissive.
#6 Avoid Dismissive Language
Don't use phrases that diminish their pain, such as "You'll get over it" or "It's not that big of a deal." Such statements can make them feel unheard and unsupported.
#7 Don't Make Assumptions
Don't assume you know what's best for the grieving person. Everyone copes differently, and what worked for you or someone else may not be suitable for them.
#8 Don't Disappear
Don't disappear from their life because you're unsure of what to say or do. Even if you're not sure how to comfort them, your presence can be comforting in itself.
The Dos - Or the best ways to help a grieving friend
#1 Listen Actively
Do lend a compassionate ear. Active listening involves giving your full attention, maintaining eye contact, and showing empathy through your body language and verbal cues.
Do encourage them to share their feelings and thoughts without interrupting. Sometimes, people just need to be heard.
#2 Acknowledge Their Pain
Do acknowledge the depth of their suffering. Express empathy and validate their emotions. Phrases like "I can't imagine how hard this must be for you" or "Your feelings are completely valid" can go a long way.
#3 Send a Comfort Gift Box
Do send a comfort gift box as a thoughtful gesture. Customise a gift box just for them with soothing scents, comfort soft toys, or their favourite snacks can go a long way. While spending time with a grieving individual is important, a personalised gift can also bring comfort and solace during their difficult times when you can’t be there in person.
#4 Offer Physical Comfort
Do offer a hug, a shoulder to cry on, or a comforting touch when appropriate. Physical gestures can convey support and care without words.
#5 Respect Their Space
Do respect their need for space and solitude. Sometimes, people need time alone to process their emotions, and that's okay. Offer your presence without imposing it.
#6 Provide Practical Help
Do offer specific, practical assistance. Instead of a vague "Let me know if you need anything," say something like, "I can pick up groceries for you" or "I'll walk your dog today."
#7 Follow Up Regularly
Do check in on them regularly. Grief and distress often linger long after the initial shock. Sending a message or making a quick call to see how they're doing shows your ongoing support.
#8 Educate Yourself
Do educate yourself about their situation, especially if it's a challenging or unfamiliar issue. Understanding what they're going through can help you provide more targeted support.