Their is nothing you can do to take away the pain from a grieving person. But what can you say and do in those situations to let the person know you are there for them? There’s no one right answer, but I have learned a lot about talking to people in uncomfortable and vulnerable situations over the past years.
Everyone grieves differently, so I always take cues from how they are reacting to things. Some people want to be left alone and others want to be surrounded by distractions. If the person seems to want to be left alone, acknowledge that. Tell them that you sense they want to be left alone right now, but that you care and are available when they are ready. If they prefer being surrounded by people, even just touching their arm and listening to them talk (and getting them tissues) can be a comfort.
A big no-no is saying that you understand. It’s like telling a mad person to relax. Unless you are the grieving person, you don’t truly understand. Every situation is different. If you want to relate to the person or talk with them, it’s okay to say that you can’t imagine how they feel in that moment, but that you realize they are in pain and that you hope if there’s anything you can do to help them, that they will let you know.
Don’t make the situation about you. When I lost my pregnancy, new people would tell me about their miscarriages every day. I know that they meant well and I appreciated their sentiments, but I was sick of talking about everyone’s life and pain when I was hurting so badly myself. Since then, I have been on the other end of things. When the people in my life have experienced a pregnancy loss, I only mention my own if it comes up or they ask about it. Their grieving and loss is about them and their pain, not me and mine. I will never understand their situation or pain just like they will never understand mine. But I always let them know that they are loved and never alone.
There’s not exact equation to helping a grieving a person. Just be patient with them. Everyone deals with things differently and allowing them to grieve on their own timeline is a great gift. Suppressing those feelings can do more harm than good. And remember to listen. Even if you are sitting in a silent room together, just being there speaks to your friendship and your compassion.
“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” – Kenji Miyazawa