Tips for Bystanders

Give them a Hug

Most people who have lost a loved one agree that the most you can do for them is give them a big hug. Of course, you always want to ask permission to do this, as not everyone is ready for close contact. Make sure you hold them close for about 30 seconds and avoid the “back patting” that often happens when you want to release the person.

First Hour Grief Response - Fall 2018 Newsletter - Hug

What to Say

The best thing you can say to a person is, “I am so sorry for your loss.” Or, “I really don’t know what to say in this situation. I am so sorry.” Truth is, there really are no words to help someone who just lost a loved one.

What NOT to Say

Avoid phrases like the following:

  • “He’s/She’s in a better place.”
  • “People have been through worse.”
  • “If my child died, I would be happy to know he/she is in heaven.”
  • “At least you have other children.”
  • “You’ll find love again. It won’t be long.”
  • “You have to be strong.”
  • “Everything happens for a reason.”
  • “I know how you feel.”
  • “God never gives you more than you can handle.”
  • “You need to stop feeling sorry for yourself and move on.”
  • “God needed him/her more than you do.”
  • “It was her/his time.”

Ask the person how they are today?

Grief is such a roller coaster and each day can be different. Grievers experience emotions such as anger, depression, anxiety, guilt, blame, hopelessness, fear, suicidal thoughts, feeling cheated, wanting to know why it happened and the list goes on. Once you ask how they are, just listen. Stay engaged in what they are saying.

You don’t have to have any answers.

They just need to talk about how they are doing and trust that you really want to know and understand what is going on with them. You might tell them how sorry you are and that while you don’t truly understand what they are going through, it sounds really difficult. And then check on them regularly. They may not always want to talk about it so don’t feel offended if they don’t answer your call or want to get together face to face. Or if they simply say, I can’t talk about it right now, then switch topics. Avoid telling them too many happy things that are going on in your life right now. That can also trigger an emotional response as they just aren’t prepared to listen to how great your life is when their life is so dark and heavy.

Feel the need to share? 

If you would like to share your story on our blog or privately with one of our grief counselors, please submit it to us through the Contact page.

*If you would like your story shared publicly on our blog, please omit, or replace names of person’s that have not consented to their name being used. With your permission and upon review, we will do what we can to share as many people’s stories as possible. 

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