What does one say to someone who is grieving or in pain? When visiting with a person who is grieving, many people have had the experience where things that were said, which were meant to help or lift up, instead are taken wrong. Often we are so worried about saying the wrong thing, that we do not say anything at all. Then those who lost a loved one also suffer the loss of friends. Not because their friends do not mean well but because those friends stay away because they feel they might say the wrong thing in their friend’s time of need.
When visiting a friend is grieving, it’s less about what we say and more about listening and validating.
Fr. Joe Mahoney eloquently explains what many grieving people want, “Needed: A strong, deep person wise enough to allow me to grieve in the depth of who I am, and strong enough to hear my pain without turning away. I need someone who believes that the sun will rise again, but who does not fear my darkness. Someone who can point out the rock in my way without making me a child by carrying me. Some who can stand in thunder and watch the lighting and believe in a rainbow.”
In the book “The Power of Presence” by Doug Manning, he says that most people, even doctors, nurses, funeral directors, hospice workers, and many others have expressed the same kind of fears and helpless feelings of what to say and how to react to people in grief or pain. He says that people experiencing grief need “safe people.” Safe people are those who are willing to listen and be comfortable in whatever direction the grieving process goes. They give you permission to grieve. Often we want to help by telling a profound scripture or thought on coping with a loss. But really, most people in pain need the “presence” of a safe companion more than they need information. They need a friend more than they need a counselor. Allow your friend a safe place where they can feel comfortable to share their feelings so that they don’t keep them inside, which increase their pain. Talking clears out the barriers and as they talk they start to better understand what they are feeling more than you could ever tell them. Frank Tyger sums it up with, “There is no greater loan than a sympathetic ear.”
In closing, remember, “Greif never ends… but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Greif is not a sign of weakness, not a lack of faith… It is the price of love,” Author unknown. Don’t be afraid to join your friends in their passage through grief. Join them and be “present” and listen. Let them know that you have heard them, that you will always be a listening ear, and that you’re not going anywhere. You are a friend during good times and throughout the bad.
Grief can seem overwhelming. It can take control of your life if you are not equipped to deal with it. If you or a friend could benefit from a grief support group, contact Heart ‘n Home for more information about our Grief & Loss Support Groups. These groups teach you the tools to be able to not only recognize the ways grief affects your life but also teaches you ways to deal with grief.