How to comfort those who grieve

By Anam Afzaal Ch
Fri, 11, 18

Have you ever felt powerless when a friend or relatives has suffered any loss or heartbreak?


Have you ever felt powerless when a friend or relatives has suffered any loss or heartbreak? Every time I see anyone suffering a terrible numbness set in, I feel awkward; I don’t quite know what to say to help?

Many people are immobilized out of fear they’d do or say something wrong. Obviously, there is nothing that can make the heartache go away, but there are many acts of thoughtfulness that can convey your concern and help that friend or loved one. Your presence and support can make all the difference to your loved one. You only show support in the following way:

1. Be there. By being there you can help in other ways. Ask if there’s anything you can do. Your caring presence will help your loved one cope with the pain and they will gradually begin to heal.

2. A sincere expression of caring can help a lot, and turn grief and despair into faith and hope. By listening compassionately, you can take your cues from the grieving person.

3. Understand that everyone grieves differently and for different lengths of time. And it can be an emotional roller-coaster, with unpredictable highs, low and setbacks. So never say, “I know how you feel” unless you really have gone through the same experience. I think you should say what is in your heart instead of the usual cliched phrases that even you don’t believe in.

Things to avoid saying to someone who’s suffering

1. Don’t press if the grieving person doesn’t feel like talking. Often, comfort for them comes from simply being in your company. If you can’t think of something to say, just offer eye contact, a squeeze of the hand, or a reassuring hug.

2. Don’t try to minimize their loss, provide simplistic solutions, or offer unsolicited advice. It’s far better to just listen to your loved one or simply admit: “I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care.”

3. Avoid saying things like “You are so strong” or “You look so well.” This puts pressure on the person to keep up appearances and to hide their true feelings.

Above all, feelings of guilt, anger, despair and fear are common. A grieving person may yell to the heavens, obsess about death, lash-out at loved ones, or cry for hours on end. Your loved one need reassurance what they feel is normal. Don’t judge them or take their grief reactions personally.

Often they feel alone and isolated in their grief; they may not have the energy or motivation to call someone but having someone to lean on can help them through this time. If you are able, try to be consistent in your offers of assistance. The grieving person will know that you’ll be there for as long as it takes, without having to make the additional effort of asking again and again.

In addition, there are many practical ways in which you can help someone who is grieving. Relatives and friends who come to offer condolences can bring food and help out with house work. So, if you are one of those who feel awkward offering verbal support, you can quietly take over chores like making tea, serving food and tidying up the house.

Compiled by Anam Afzaal Ch.