Thursday, September 13, 2012

What Do I Say Now?

It’s often hard to know what to say or do when someone is grieving. You may be afraid of intruding, saying the wrong thing or making the person feel even worse. While you can’t take away the pain of the loss, there are many ways you can help a   grieving friend or family member.

The death of a loved one is one of life’s most difficult experiences. The bereaved struggle with many intense and frightening emotions, including depression, anger, and guilt. Often, they feel isolated and alone in their grief. Having someone to lean on can help them through the grieving process.

Don’t let discomfort prevent you from reaching out to someone who is grieving. Now, more than ever, your support is needed. You might not know exactly what to say or what to do, but that’s okay. You don’t need to have answers or give advice. The most important thing you can do for a  grieving person is to simply be there. Your support and caring presence will help them cope with the pain and begin to heal.


The better your understanding of grief and how it is healed, the  better equipped you’ll be to help a bereaved friend or family member:

· There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
Grief does not always unfold in orderly, predictable stages. It can be an emotional rollercoaster, with unpredictable highs, lows, and setbacks.  Everyone grieves  differently, so avoid telling the bereaved what they “should” be feeling or doing.

· Grief may involve extreme emotions and behaviors. Feelings of guilt, anger, despair, and fear are common. A grieving person may yell to the heavens, obsess about the death, lash out at loved ones, or cry for hours on end. The bereaved need reassurance that what they’re feeling is normal. Don’t judge them or take their grief reactions personally.

· There is no set timetable for grieving.
For many people, recovery after bereavement takes 18 to 24 months, but for others, the grieving process may be longer or shorter. Don’t pressure the bereaved to move on or make them feel like they’ve been grieving too long. This can actually slow their healing.


It is common to feel awkward when trying to comfort someone who is grieving. Many people do not know what to say or do. The following are suggestions to use as a guide:

· Acknowledge the situation.   
    Example: "I heard that your_____ died." Use the word "died" That will show that you are more open to talk about how the person really feels.

· Express your concern.          
   Example: "I'm sorry to hear that this happened to you."

· Be genuine in your communication and don't hide your feelings.
Example: "I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care."

· Offer your support.                
   Example: "Tell me what I can do for you."

   Ask how he or she feels, and don't assume you know how the bereaved person feels on any given day.

Source: American Cancer Society


· "I know how you feel."
 One can never know how another may feel. You could, instead, ask your friend to tell you how he or   
 she feels.

· "It's part of God's plan."    
    This phrase can make people angry and they often respond with, "What plan? Nobody told me about 
    any plan."

· "Look at what you have to be thankful for."                         
    They know they have things to be thankful for, but right now they are not important.

· "He's in a better place now."
    The bereaved may or may not believe this. Keep your beliefs to yourself unless asked.

· "This is behind you now; it's time to get on with your life." 
    Sometimes the bereaved are resistant to getting on with because they feel this means "forgetting" their loved one. In addition, moving on is easier said than done. Grief has a mind of its own and works at its own pace.

 Statements that begin with "You should" or "You will." These statements are too directive. Instead you
 could begin your comments with: "Have you thought about. . ." or "You might. . ."

Source: American Hospice Foundation


Want to have more meaning in your life? Do you want to do something that is satisfying and of great service to your community? Then become a Hospice volunteer! 

Volunteers are needed for the Northern Virginia area such as Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, Burke, Manassas, Lorton to name just a few to service families of the terminally ill. Becoming a hospice volunteer is similar to helping a neighbor in need. 

The only qualification required is your desire to help someone in need. You don't need any medical skills; you don't even need a college degree; you don't even need to know what to say. All you need to do is sign-up for our hospice volunteer training session coming soon.

Call today at (703) 392-7100, ask for the Volunteer Coordinator, to find out more about the hospice volunteer opportunity.

You can make a difference! 
My photo
Manassas, VA, United States
Ilene Danforth, Medi Home Hospice Volunteer Coordinator, Medical Services of America, Serving hospice patients and their families in Northern Virginia.