EXPRESSIONS OF SYMPATHY
Listen with your heart
Helping begins with your ability to be an active listener. Your physical presence and desire to listen without judging are critical helping tools. Don’t worry so much about what you will say. Just concentrate on listening to the words that are being shared with you.
Give your friend permission to express his or her feelings without fear of criticism. Learn from your friend; don’t instruct or set expectations about how he or she should respond. Never say, “I know just how you feel.” You don’t.
Words, particularly clichés, can be extremely painful for a grieving friend. Clichés are trite comments often intended to diminish the loss by providing simple solutions to difficult realities. Comments like “You are holding up so well,” “Time heals all wounds,” “Think of all you still have to be thankful for,” or “Just be happy that he/she is out of his/her pain” are not constructive. Instead, they hurt and can make a friend’s journey through grief more difficult.
Offer practical help
Preparing food, washing clothes, cleaning the house, or answering the telephone are just a few of the practical ways of showing you care.
Understand the uniqueness of grief
Keep in mind that your friend’s grief is unique. No one person will respond to the death of someone loved in exactly the same way. While it may be possible to talk about similar phases shared by grieving people, everyone is different and shaped by experiences in their own unique lives.
Your presence at the funeral is important. As a ritual, the funeral provides an opportunity for you to express your love and concern at this time of need. As you pay tribute to a life that is now passed, you have a chance to support grieving friends and family. At the funeral, a touch of your hand, a look in your eye, or even a hug often communicates more than words could say.
Share a favorite memory of the person who died
Relate the special qualities that you valued in him or her. These words will often be a loving gift to your grieving friend, words that will be reread and remembered for years. Use the name of the person who has died either in your personal note or when you talk to your friend. Hearing that name can be comforting, and it confirms that you have not forgotten this important person who was so much a part of your friend’s life.