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How to respond to grief?

What to say?

When we experience the death of a loved one or are close to someone who has, we can often be left in a situation where we do not know what to say.  Given that the experiencing of the death of someone close is not a common experience for most people, we can feel unprepared for bringing it up with those most affected. We are fearful we will offend or hurt a person already in great emotional pain.  While we want to let family members and loved ones know we care, we may never have experienced grief and although know it can be devastating, are not able to relate and worry that our expression of sympathy or condolence may be insensitive. Often people choose to send more formal messages of support through condolence letters to a friend or a phone call but what to say can be a challenge.

What not to say

When you are supporting someone going through a grieving process it is important to understand that the process is painful and likely to be new to them.  Given you may also be grieving it can be difficult to truly be available to the grieving person. However, one of those things family and friends often hear after a close death is ‘How are you going?’.  While well intended this is one of the most common questions asked of someone grieving and sadly a question can’t often be answered quickly and honestly. If you know someone suffering grief it is better to acknowledge their process rather than have them explain it to you.  They are unlikely to feel like explaining how they feel, how they are coping and should they do so, feel they may be burdening you with responsibility and an obligation to help them. Grief can be an unpredictable set of emotions and a range of feelings not easily explained or justified.  Acknowledging the grieving process is the better way to support someone going through it.

What is appropriate?

We can feel unsure of how to behave or what is appropriate funeral or wake ettiquette.  When attending a memorial after a death, it can be difficult to know how to respond that is in keeping with the wishes of the family. You may be unsure of the right words to say, what is the polite word for a funeral or the steps to follow at a service or burial. Understand that just being there is a show of support for the family and those affected and a sign that you feel their loss.

Being present at a families tribute to the person who has died is a sign of your support and your respect for their family and friends. Southern Cross Funeral Directors are Australian owned funeral directors and are experienced in understanding the grieving process people go through and offer sensitive support at one of life’s most challenging times.