It can be very hard to know what to say to someone going through the loss of a loved one. I know I’ve always struggled with it.
Leslie Horn has a written great post about How to Talk to a Grieving Person. The whole thing is worth a read, but here are some key takeaways:
Keep it Simple: “You can start out by saying, ‘I am here for you, however you need,” says Shreya Mandal, a therapist who specializes in grief and lost her own father three years ago. “It should be as simple as that. You don’t have to come up with something flowery.”
Be Honest: “I remember this woman coming up to our cousin Ester at our Uncle Paul’s shiva, six weeks earlier, a few days before my dad’s diagnosis,” says my friend Jeff, who lost his father six years ago. “This woman said, ‘This sucks. Sorry, someone had to say it.’ And it was really refreshing!”
Forget The Clichés: “Forget everything you think you’re supposed to say. My father was religious, and while I could appreciate the intent behind something like, ‘I’m praying for you,’ it didn’t really have the desired effect. Speak from the heart.”
Don’t Walk on Eggshells: “I loved that my closest friends…didn’t walk on eggshells around me like so many people did, which just made me feel worse. My friends provided me with a sense of normalcy among all the jarring changes that came with such a loss.”
Tell Stories: “I loved hearing other people tell stories about Mama, and still do to this day,” Windsar told me. “Hearing about how much she loved her family or how good of a friend she was, or hearing a story about something quirky she did that was just ‘so Darla’ comforted me and often made me laugh—something I truly felt I might never be able to do again.”
Be Present: “Make yourself available. Check in often. Make plans with that person. I’ve always been a planner, but after my dad died, that part of me took a hiatus. I had a friend who recognized that very quickly, and began purposefully and dutifully taking the lead in making plans with me. I saw that, and it helped me keep going.”
Know That There’s No Timeline: “There’s no such thing as a time when everything should be okay, no script, no right or wrong way to grieve. I haven’t been able to delete my dad’s phone number from my favorites; I also saved a pair of his leather loafers. One day I’ll delete the number and give the loafers to Goodwill. But I’m not ready to let those things go yet. It’s a process.”
If Nothing Else, Just Say You’re Sorry: “It means more than you know.”
You can check out the whole post here, it’s beautifully written and the comments section also has a lot of great stories and advice.