How to Comfort Someone Who Has Lost a Loved One

Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult struggles we experience in life. When a loved one passes away, survivors feel sadness that can be overwhelming, especially if the death was sudden and unexpected. Regardless of circumstances, losing a beloved family member or friend is a sad time for those left behind. You cannot take away the sadness, but you can provide comforting words and supportive gestures of kindness. The following tips can be helpful when trying to offer meaningful support to a grieving friend or family member.

Take Time to Listen

Grieving survivors need to talk about their loved one. Resist the temptation to share stories about your own experiences. Don’t talk about loved ones you have lost, and how it made you feel. Maybe the person feels guilty, angry, or scared. Listen compassionately to his story, and don’t try to tell him his feelings are wrong or inappropriate. Your quiet presence and support will let the person vent his feelings without the fear of judgement.

Don’t Back Away From the Discomfort

Comforting someone who has lost a loved one can be awkward and uncomfortable. When you see pain in their expression, or tears of sadness on their cheeks, you may want to change the subject or leave the scene. Standing firmly in your support is always the right thing to do. Do not be afraid to say the word died, or mention the deceased loved one’s name. Survivors want to say and hear their loved one’s name. They may need to hear you speak fondly of the person they lost. Your stories may make them cry, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to hear them. Don’t try to change the subject when the person talks about the details of the death, or the pain in their heart. Simply acknowledging their feelings is affirming and supportive.

Don’t Ask What You Can Do; Just Do It

Analyze the situation and take care of small details. Accompany the grieving person to the funeral home if asked to do so. Make sure there are groceries in the house. Clean the bathroom or kitchen before post-funeral guests arrive. Shine a pair of shoes, or wash and dry a load of laundry. Do whatever it takes to alleviate some of the day-to-day responsibilities until the person is ready to resume control.

Stay in Touch

The bereaved person will need support after the funeral is over and people go back to their own lives. Try to be available and accessible in the weeks following the death. There are no time limits on grief. Your ongoing love and support will be welcomed and appreciated

Cite this page: Nugent, Pam M.S., "How to Comfort Someone Who Has Lost a Loved One," in PsychologyDictionary.org, January 26, 2016, https://psychologydictionary.org/article/how-to-comfort-someone-who-has-lost-a-loved-one/ (accessed December 10, 2018).
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