What has been most helpful to you in your grief journey? What stands out to you when you think about someone who has comforted you when you needed it the most? When asked to reflect on a time when someone has felt most supported, we often think about a time when someone simply listened and accepted our feelings. There are no magic words that take away the hurt, but we are comforted in the presence of kindness. We can just sit with them, let them be, and know that is enough in that moment.
When being present for someone who is grieving, it is important to listen and not minimize their feelings. It is hard to see someone we love in pain, and it can be our instinct to want to “fix it” or “make it better.” Some struggle to find the words and don’t know what to say. It is important to let people experience their grief and experience it in their own way. When someone is hurting in our lives, we tend to want to say things like, “it’s going to be okay,” when perhaps what we are trying to say is, “I’m here for you.”
On occasion, we have asked some of our groups, “If you had a close friend that was going through what you have been though, what would you tell them?’ Words shared reflect a need for encouragement and understanding. Acknowledging that it hurts and knowing words like “I’m sorry for your loss” and “I know how you feel” would not cross their lips. When thinking about what one might say, it can bring to mind the things one would not say. Instead of giving advice or using clichés, connect by asking questions about how they have been doing or what they have been experiencing since the death.
Recently in our adult groups, we did an activity to provide a word of encouragement for their children. Each adult was asked to choose one word that represented their child or what they hoped for them. They wrote the word on a paper heart or colorful note card. These words, though simple, represented connection in their journey. Words such as love, proud, faith, strength, hope, brave, determined, peace, patience, family, friendship, caring, comfort, and understanding. The words could represent where they have been, where they are, and where they are going.
Grief is a constant companion, and it helps to know you have someone beside you in your journey. It is important to have someone who can meet you where you are in your grief on any given day. Everyone’s grief journey is unique, and it is helpful to know you are not alone. Feeling safe to share your feelings and knowing someone truly cares to listen can be what is needed. For some, it may be hard to say what has made the greatest impact on their grief journey, but it is comforting to know they have a safe place to be themselves and feel supported.