Supporting Someone Who is Grieving – A Few Do’s and Don’ts for Family, Friends & Co-workers
- Express your condolences. A simple, sincere “I’m so sorry for your loss,” a soft hand on their shoulder and/or a caring hug are usually perfect.
- Be present. Stay in touch even when others begin to disappear.
- Show you genuinely care through kind words and actions. It’s OK to also show them you care with your tears of sorrow.
- Be a safe harbor for them to express their feelings. Allow them to grieve without fear of being judged, analyzed, fixed, cured, saved or healed.
- Listen patiently and ask them open-ended questions to see how they’re doing, what they need and/or how you can be helpful
- Give them multiple choices of things you’d like to do to help. This way, they’ll know you’re serious. Listen intently and do what the
- Give the grieving person every opportunity to talk about the person who died. If given the chance, tell stories acknowledging their life, special qualities they possessed and their loving relationship with your co-worker.
- Ask them how they would like your support on special dates like their birthday, their “angel-versary” (day of their passing) or holidays.
- Show genuine concern, kindness, understanding, patience, empathy and compassion. A time to put your ego on the shelf and be of service to them.
- Stay humble, flexible, relaxed and at ease when you’re with them.
- Assist them in getting the grief support they need, including professional help from a grief counselor or coach – or a psychiatrist — if necessary.
- Let them ease their way back to work, a few hours at a time until they can handle longer stretches of sustained activity. Taking a “leave of absence” may be necessary.
- Set up a “back up” or “buddy” system at work in case they have a meltdown or need to step back from work during the first year.
- Invite them (without the least bit of pressure) to join you for lunch, coffee or a walk during a lunch break.
- Don’t assume you know how they feel — or what they want.
- Don’t put a psychological, religious or spiritual spin on their loss.
- Don’t use clichés or “glass is half-full” “just be positive” messages.
- Refrain from anything that might be interpreted as a “hurry up,” “you’ll get over it,” “time heals all wounds” message.
- Don’t give unsolicited advice or play shrink with them.
- Don’t compare your loss to theirs.
- Do not suggest a quick fix to take away the pain.
- Don’t take it personally if they’re not responding to you the way you had hoped – and get an attitude. It’s not about you!
- Don’t allow your own feelings of helplessness, impatience or intolerance of their persisting sorrow to cause you to say something insensitive.
- Don’t ask how they’re doing, or any other casual question. Tell them they (and their family) continue to be in your good thoughts and prayers.
- Don’t control the conversation. Let them take the lead on what they wish to talk about and ask respectful, open ended questions to draw them out.
- Don’t avoid, gloss over, act cute, change the subject or pretend like nothing has happened – or that nothing was said.
- When they bring up the loss, respond in a way that shows them you were listening. And that you genuinely care.
- Don’t smother your co-worker with caregiving attention.
- Don’t hide, deny, repress, avoid, displace, dumb down or “medicate” the feelings of sorrow, anger or guilt that may have been triggered by their loss.
- Don’t make executive decisions about what they need without consulting them. Ask them what they would like to have happen.
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