In my last blog I talked about things you should NOT say, so what DO you say to someone who is going through loss?
My advice of 8 things to say to someone who has lost a loved one would be:
1. Tell them an experience where their loved one who has passed did something meaningful. Consider writing it down and giving it to them, so they can remember it. (My brain didn’t remember anything very well, and years later I wondered what that memory was, again. I kept all of the cards I received and I have gone back to re-read those memories.)
2. Ask questions about their loved one if you feel that’s right. Most people like to talk about them. Maybe ask something like, “What is one of your favorite memories?”
3. Tell them you think about them a lot. People would tell me they are praying for me and I liked that and could feel it. It lifted me.
4. Ask how you can help, then do it. Have an idea in mind such as “Can I drop off a frozen dinner to you tomorrow?” “Can your kids come to my house one day after school this week?” Be specific with dates that are soon. Many people just dropped things off on the porch with a note and I really appreciated that. Once a neighbor rang my doorbell and asked if I had checked my furnace filters. “What? I have furnace filters?” He checked for me, wrote down the size (I guess they didn’t pass) and later brought me new ones and put them in. Things like this were so appreciated.
5. My widow friend said, “The best thing ever said was ‘This just sucks’.”
6. Ask them if you can keep in contact with them and if so, what is the best way- email, text, phone calls? One sweet friend, Jaime, gave me her cell phone number and said, “I don’t care what time of day or night it is, please call me if you ever need anything.” And she meant it. I didn’t know her super well, but enough so one night when I had nobody to get me through a very bad day I remembered her plea and called her at midnight and woke her. She may have regretted giving me her number that very minute, but she talked me through one of my most painful days and I will always be grateful for her. Much of what we talked about was what was going on in her life and that’s what I needed so I would be distracted in my own. She just went along with whatever I needed to hear and say.
7. A widower suggested, “If people have NEVER walked in our shoes, they do not understand what we do NOT want to hear. It would be better if they walked over and just took our hands and looked into our eyes and did not say anything at all.” –just be there for them. Ask them if this is a good time to just be with them. Each minute is different with new widows and widowers- sometimes they need space and sometimes they need a hug or someone to just be there.
8. Many people told me they were sorry. Just plain sorry. They said they had no idea what I was going through and thought of me often. This helped me to know people were aware of me and my feelings and were supporting me. It is simple, but it worked.
I took comments positively, tried to accept all forms of comfort, and knew that people cared and were doing the best they could to show me, love, even if the words came out wrong. It really is an awkward situation, so do your best to show you care and that will go a long way.