I have been asked to wordsmith greeting cards or help with the right message when curating gift boxes many times through the gifting process, especially for sympathy gifts. This makes me pause and think through what could be said that would genuinely be comforting as they are going through grief.
In times requiring sympathy, my recommendation is to take a moment to think about what you are about to say, put yourself in their shoes, and ask yourself how you’d react or feel if it were said to you.
Remember: they need someone to lean on. They don’t need help to fix a situation, advice, or what you’d do if you were in their shoes. We often do this because we are unsure what to say or feel uncomfortable.
Things You Can Do To Help Support:
Actions to follow up with: Contact them to check in, “How are you feeling today?” “Is there anything I can help you with today?” vs. “Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you?” Those going through any loss will not call up anyone, and we need to be there or do our best to show up to help.
The critical thing is to check in regularly. If this person is close to you, or you tend to forget, set a recurring alert to remind yourself to check-in. DON’T BE EMBARRASSED that you need reminders, this isn’t about you, and it helps you be there.
Offer your help, or just do it! Help with daily tasks such as grocery store, mowing the lawn, walking the dog, helping with any child care, or even taking them in while they sort things out.
Bring them food or coordinate a meal train to ensure they are eating during this stressful time.
Depending on the person, they may not want any memorabilia, so it’s best to wait it out before creating gifts in memory of their lost loved one or sending something that is sentimental but not a reminder, examples might be their favorite flower, items, or even something soothing to help them reduce stress such as bath products, candles or activities/things that you know bring them joy.
Examples of What Not To Say:
It could be worse.
I would do this if it were me.
Try to remember the good times.
This was god’s plan.
At least it wasn’t...
They want to be seen and heard; that’s the best way to comfort someone going through a hard time in life. And depending on the timing, if you have been through something similar, sharing your story could help connect you two and help them through the grief.
I hope this helps the next time you have someone close to you go through hard things and proceed with caution when offering unsolicited advice.
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