It can be difficult to find the right thing to say to the bereaved. You may not have known the deceased, or you may not have experienced a similar loss. You might feel uncomfortable when speaking with the bereaved. Know your presence adds support and is important to those grieving. Consider offering these words to ease their pain a little.
“I am sorry for your loss.”
Even if you never knew the deceased, it is still meaningful to the bereaved to hear you are sorry for their loss. By being direct and honest, you acknowledge their pain and show them you care.
“If you need anything, I am here for you.”
People grieve in many different ways. Whether they lean on their Catholic faith, their loved ones, or themselves, you cannot always predict how a person may need your support. By simply offering to be available – as someone to talk to, to sit in silence, or to run an errand – you are giving more support than you may realize. An unprompted gesture such as sending flowers, dropping off a prepared meal, or a phone call to check in can be a great show of support.
“How are you?” Then listen – really listen – for the true answer.
Many people leave those in mourning alone. You may think the person needs time to heal, or your presence may be an annoyance. However, many people who are mourning want to talk honestly and openly about their own feelings, or share memories. You may be able to help them grieve and heal by simply listening.
“I feel your pain”.
This is not the same as “I know how you feel”, which should be avoided, as everyone’s journey with grief is uniquely their own.
“How about a hug?”
A genuine hug, which conveys we want the person to feel safe, is one of the most beautiful things a person can receive, especially in the wake of tremendous loss. A hug doesn’t take away the hurt, but can help the bereaved through some difficult moments.
“Would you like to talk about your loved one?”
Some people believe if they bring up the subject of the person who died weeks or months after the funeral, that the bereaved will experience more grief. The opposite is true. A person who is grieving is disappointed by how rarely people mention the person who died. It is important to share a story or memory about the person who passed away. It lets the griever know others remember their loved one, which is comforting.
Say less – listen more
We are not suggesting that you avoid the grieving person or when you talk with them you pretend you don’t know their loved one has died. This behavior would be hurtful. Don’t be afraid bring up the loved one in conversation, and then be quiet and simply listen with an open heart. Hold their hand. Offer a tissue. Make a pot of coffee, or ask if they would like to go for a walk. Let them lead the conversation. Often the biggest gift you can give a grieving person is permission to speak freely.
Courtesy of Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Vancouver
Your parish clergy are a wonderful resource for you during this time of loss. As an extension of your parish, our deacons at Catholic Cemeteries are also available to offer prayer, comfort and consolation to you and your family.
Deacon Steve Hill
Deacon Jim Tardy
Deacon Norm Tierney