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The Bereavement Team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center provides “Do’s and Don’ts” for helping those who are grieving.
Allow the grieving person to cry, be sad or angry. It is OK to feel whatever she is feeling. Grief is a process and it takes time to work through all the feelings. Let her know that it is OK to cry, be angry, sad. Let them know that you are there, no matter what.
No two people grieve the same way. Pain is part of the grieving process. You cannot carry his burden of grief for him.
You cannot understand his grief but you can relate to it by your own experiences “I don’t know how you feel but I know how I felt when I lost my… I know how hard this must be for you.” Don’t tell him how to feel, allow him to tell you how he feels. It’s not about you and your grief, it’s about him and his grief!
Since no two people grieve the same way, you do not know how she feels. Your grief was uniquely yours and her grief is uniquely hers. Allow her to experience her own grief. Avoid such things as “you must be strong,” “they wouldn’t want you to feel this way,” “you shouldn’t cry,” “they had a long life.”
Talk about the person who died and use his or her name. Grieving people often state that “no one refers to him anymore.”
Be specific in your offers to help rather than “call me if I can do anything.” Grief is hard work and people may not be able to ask for help but would gladly accept offers of assistance. “I’m going to the store on Friday; would you like to go with me?” “I’ll take the kids to practice and bring them home.” “I like to do yard work and I would like to help you with yours.” “Let’s plan on lunch next Wednesday.”
While clichés may seem helpful, they often offend those who are grieving. And chances are they have heard them already. Just be present, and if you can’t think of anything to say, ask an open ended question. Allow her to share whatever she is feeling.
Simple words like “I’m sorry” can mean more than trying to make him feel better. There are no words to ease the pain of his loss. “I’m sure this is a difficult time for you” keeps the focus on him by acknowledging his grief.
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