This was posted on a page for Grieving Mothers and I felt compelled to share it since so many have often said they want to help but don't ever know what to do or say to us or anyone else who has lost someone.
• Visits over a longer period of time are more important than many visits during the first week, when other friends and relatives are still available. With the departure of these people, the bereaved may feel isolated. Now is the time for you to start your visits. You don’t have to say anything. Make a pot of coffee or a cup of tea and just be there. If you can’t visit, call. Phone calls are important. You may not know what to say but again, you don’t have to say anything. Let your friend talk, or cry. Just knowing you care is enough. It truly is. So be there.
• Be a good listener. Listening is the most important gift you can offer a grieving person. Every time your bereaved friend tells his or her story, the reality of what has happened will sink in. The loss must become real in order for your friend to move through the process of grief. Just listen.
• “I know how you feel because _______.” One can never know how another may feel. Even if you suffered a similar loss, you would have had your own unique way of dealing with the pain.
Never compare your friend’s loss to the loss of your pet or your job. Although it’s extremely painful to lose your pet, it’s not the same as losing your child or your spouse.
• “It is part of God's plan.” “It was God’s Will.” “God needed another Angel.” "God so loved your ____ that he has taken her to live with him." These phrases can make people angry and they often respond with, “What plan? Nobody told me about any plan. I don’t care about His will. God has enough angels. He didn’t need to take mine. And does He love me less because He took ____ and not me?”
Instead, reassure your friend that it’s okay to be angry. Encourage your friend to let those feelings out. If your friend is angry at God, remind your friend to express that anger. God can take it. Encourage your friend to go for a drive and just scream at the top of his lungs.
• “Look at what you have to be thankful for.” “You’re young. You can get married again.” “You can still have another child” (another child or spouse can’t replace the one they lost), “You still have Johnny and Sally” (Johnny and Sally can’t fill the void left by their deceased sibling).
• “Call if you need anything.” They aren’t going to call. It is much better to offer something concrete, such as: “I have two free hours and I want to come over and vacuum your house or work on your lawn.”
• “He’s in a better place now.” The bereaved may or may not believe this. Keep your beliefs to yourself unless asked.
• “This is behind you now; it’s time to get on with your life.” Sometimes the bereaved are resistant to getting on with because they feel this means “forgetting” their loved one. In addition, moving on is easier said than done. Grief has a mind of its own and works at its own pace.
• Avoid statements that begin with “You should” or “You will.” Instead you could begin your comments with: “Have you thought about”.
• Avoid making decisions for your friend. You can help your friend make decisions by exploring the pros and cons of what or what not to do. Write the pros and cons on paper and always remind your friend to take time before making any important decision. If you make a decision for your friend and it ends up being a bad one, your friend may be very angry with you down the road.
• Avoid discouraging expressions of grief. It is best to “encourage” your friend to express grief. If your friend begins to cry, don’t change the subject. Give a hug, make a pot of coffee or find the tissues.