Recently I learned that a dear friend’s mother passed away. As I collected myself, I had a number of thoughts and feelings, which included sadness and concern for my grieving friend. I thought I would list a few questions that most of us ask ourselves when hearing about a loss. Perhaps it will give you some guidance and help you to take steps yourself to comfort someone grieving a loss.
- “Should I call?” “Is now the right time?” Since my friend’s Mom lived across the country, I had no idea if my friend was alone, busy with the details of the wake and funeral, helping her Dad or any other tasks that needed her attention. I decided to trust my heart and reach out to her right then. I was only able to leave a voice mail but I felt better knowing that she knew I was thinking about her. A return message from her told me that she felt better knowing that so many of her friends were letting her know that they were thinking of her with loving support.
- “What should I say?” “Will I make things worse?” There is often that moment of doubt when first reaching out to someone who has just suffered a loss. What if I don’t know what to say and end up saying nothing? Somehow the right words might come or perhaps saying nothing and being present with them in the moment might be what the grieving person needs. Trusting yourself is the right path to choose. In times of grief we want to know that others are supporting us whether it is in thoughts, prayers, words or action. Even the strongest person needs comfort and support during difficult times.
- “After the call, then what?” One way to handle this question is to ask them what you can do to help them. Avoid saying “Call me if you need me.” Sometimes bring dinner and spend time with them. Sometimes make yourself available for a phone conversation and listen to them talk. If they are not up to talking, send a card with a note to let them know that you are thinking about them.
Even if you are uncomfortable (and many people are) it is better to extend yourself and reach out to someone experiencing grief or loss.