Frazer Blog

What to Say to a Grieving Loved One and How to Help

by | Jul 9, 2019 | For Families

Mother holding son

In an article published in Psychology Today, Psychologist Charles Garfield shared four steps for communicating with a grieving loved one. They included active listening, beginning the conversation and following their lead on how to respond, returning to the main topic if you go astray, and to keep breathing.

These are all great strategies to remember when talking with a grieving loved one. That’s why we’re sharing active listening and communication tips, as well as ways you can help your loved one grieve.

Active Listening Strategies

Active listening is defined by BusinessDictionary as “the act of mindfully hearing and attempting to comprehend the meaning of words spoken by another in a conversation or speech.” In other words, it’s listening to understand, not just to reply.

When actively listening, put your full attention on the person speaking and shut off other thoughts in your head. It’s important to stay focused and refocus your attention if you find yourself thinking about other things. This is especially important when the topic is as serious as grieving the loss of a loved one. It also can help to paint a picture in your mind of what they’re telling you.

In addition to clearing your mind, you should get rid of distractions around you. For example, if you invite them to your house, some possible distractions include your TV, smartphone, and other electronic devices. Although, avoiding distractions isn’t always possible if you run into the grieving person in public. In that case, make sure you aren’t on your phone and are invested in the conversation.

Also, pay attention to non-verbal cues that show you’re listening. Body language like nodding your head and making eye contact show that you’re listening to them. However, don’t focus too much on your body language and distract yourself from what they’re saying.

Communication Strategies

It can be difficult to come up with the right words to say to a grieving loved one. Losing a loved one is a traumatic experience and you don’t want to say the wrong thing. However, instead of worrying about saying the perfect thing, just focus on being there for them. Because there is no “right” thing to say.

Simple questions like asking about their day show that you care. It’s also good to start with a simple question like that before bringing up their loved one. Depending on what they respond, they may or may not be ready to talk about it, and that’s okay. Don’t push them if they aren’t ready, and offer to listen when they are ready.

Ultimately, it’s about empathy, not just sympathy. Put yourself in your loved one’s shoes and ask yourself how you’d feel in their situation. Doing this can help you understand how they’re feeling, although, everyone grieves a loss in their own way.

Ways to Help A Grieving Loved One

When talking with your grieving loved one, you also can offer some specific ways you can help. By bringing it up yourself and being specific, your loved one isn’t put in an uncomfortable position, as they may not know how to bring it up themselves.

For example, you can offer to help with some daily tasks like getting their groceries, mowing the lawn, or dropping off and picking up their kids from school. You also can help them find meaningful ways to memorialize their loved one. Some ideas are organizing a memorial service, making a DIY memento with photos or flowers, or dedicating a bench in their loved one’s honor.

What other ways can you help a grieving loved one? Share your ideas with us in the comments!


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