For the longest time I didn’t know what to say when a friend lost a loved one.
‘At least they’re not in pain anymore,’ ‘They’ve gone to a better place,’ or ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ are the phrases that come to mind when I think of what people say.
I don’t really like these phrases. Over the years when people have passed I’ve felt so awkward saying one of these. Sometimes people can even find the first two dismissive, not acknowledging the suffering of loved ones. So what do you do?
Here are some ideas:
Share a fond memory
When my great aunt passed away her wake was filled with people telling stories of what made her such a wonderful woman. Often they even made us laugh. In the card I wrote some of my favorite memories of her that I would miss and what she meant to me. Later my cousin and great uncle commented on how beautiful and meaningful the card was. Sharing memories eases the pain for a moment and lets people see just how much of an impact that person had.
Give or Make a Memento
When I lost my uncle to a brain tumor my dad and I would often tell stories about him. It helped me to work through those emotions of missing him. It wasn’t until I wrote about him that I really felt I processed my feelings. I put my poems and short story in a scrapbook with photos of my uncle and gave it to my dad. It was so special for both of us and he still takes it out and reads it. Giving or making a memento provides loved ones something tangible to go back to when they need to remember and process their feelings. It doesn’t have to be a scrapbook it could be a special photo in a frame or an object that had special meaning to you and the person who passed.
Memorialize an Experience
One family I know takes a hike once a year to remember their loved one just like they did when he was alive. When my dad fixes the boat I hope we’ll take a ride on the lake and dedicate our first ride to my uncle who loved to fish in that boat with my dad.
This should be done/talked about with those grieving, not for them. Some people would never want to do an experience again because it would be too painful remembering their loved one and all the times they did the activity with them, but this allows a person to still participate in activities that remind them on their loved ones. I would think this would be such a healing experience because it honors their memory by doing something that was meaningful to them.
Listen, Be Present, and Let Them Share
Sometimes the best thing to do is be present. To let them share if they choose, or not. If you want to ask what their favorite memory was or share your own that might be nice.
You could try small kind gestures to show you’re there. When my friend lost her mom my friends and I chipped in to have meal deliveries to her house for a while and she really appreciated it. You could even just drop off a meal that’s easy to reheat and has all the fixings like dessert too.
Everyone is different and will deal with loss in his/her own way but we if we can provide a smile, a laugh, or a bit of comfort during such a difficult time then everyone can feel a little better.
May you find a way to support your grieving loved ones.