Getting Grief Right

posted in: Health & Healing | 0
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Dear friends,

Only a few months ago, I received word that a dear friend’s child had been tragically killed in a car accident. Although I have worked with hundreds of bereaved people in my 38 years as a grief counselor, I felt worried as I went to be with my friend. “What will I say to this dear man about his loss?”

Then I remembered: “I don’t need to be anxious about the right thing to say. My purpose as his friend is to be present for whatever he might need.”

Supporting someone in their grief is a tall order if ever there was one. How, exactly, do you show true compassion for a grieving person? Here are a few ideas I mention in my new book, Getting Grief Right:

  • Simply and sincerely say: “I’m very sorry.”
    • No more words are necessary. Really.
  • Show up at the house, visitation, or funeral; express simple words of sorrow; and then let the mourning person dictate what happens next.
    • She may open her arms for a hug, or she may clearly want to keep people at a distance. He may want to talk about his loss or about baseball. Be with them wherever they are.
  • Just simply be with that person and be compassionate.
    • Being with a person in grief is a unique, one-way intimacy. Don’t try to fix it or make him or her feel better.
  • Listen with your eyes and respond with nods that convey, “I get it.”
  • Laugh with them when it’s time to laugh. Cry if tears come.

And remember, even after the last casserole dish is picked up, many who mourn feel forgotten.

  • Bring a meal on the two-month anniversary of the death.
  • Take your friend to coffee six months after the death and listen carefully to what they share about their story of loss.
  • Speak the name often of the one who died.
  • Donate to a relevant memorial at the year anniversary of the death or on the birthday of the one who died.

I hope these ideas will help you to create a compassionate community for those who you know are grieving.

Most Sincerely, 

Patrick O’Malley

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