What Do You Say To Someone Who Is Grieving?
When we lose someone or something precious to us, when we are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness like cancer, or when life just knocks us down, people tend to respond in a variety of ways.
Some try to ease the suffering with platitudes or try to force us to look for the silver linings, the blessings inherent in life’s struggles; others avoid us not knowing how to handle our pain, and then there are those who say to us “I am sorry. I don’t know what to say to you to ease your pain, but I am here for you”.
This is the difference between offering someone your sympathy and your heartfelt empathy.
The narrator of this video, Brené Brown, is a researcher who has spent the past decade studying vulnerability. She shows us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own vulnerabilities and are not afraid to open up and share them with others.
I know I struggle with what to say to someone when they are in emotional pain. I want so much to ease that pain but I know that words alone cannot do it. When I am the one in pain I know that I don’t want to hear any platitudes. What I want is for someone to reach out to me and say I see and acknowledge your suffering and you are not alone. I will sit with you through this and hold a space of tenderness for you until you are ready to start healing from this loss.
How about you? How do you respond to a friend or loved one who is grieving? What has been one of the most helpful things you have heard when you have been in emotional distress?
Thanks for this heartfelt post. I have learnt to trust, honour and be guided by my intuition to do what is best – be it verbally or through another gesture. And often there will be more than one occasion to support and share. Very best. Karin
Karin, your posts on dealing with grief have been so valuable to me in the past. Thanks as always for your kind and compassionate words.
As a nurse grieving comes with the territory. When I lost my mom my best friend and I learned asking “how are you doing?” wasn’t getting us anywhere because people always answer fine or okay. We discovered asking “how are you holding up?” allowed people to really dive into themselves and talk it through. I now use it with my patient’s families as well as my loved ones. Thank you for this post.