I can’t imagine how you feel – this is one of the best statements you can say to a griever, for good reasons. Because you don’t know how someone feels, this statement is accurate. Sure you can relate to how someone else may feel but you will never know how someone is feeling. So when people say, “I know how you feel,” that is inaccurate. Only the griever knows how he/she feels because he/she had a unique relationship with the loss. Also, this is an open-ended statement so it gives the griever the option to decide if they want to talk about the loss or if they don’t want to talk about their loss.
Read: Self-Care When Grieving
What happened? – You mean I’m encouraging you to ask the griever to talk about their loss? Yes! That is right. This question is short and simple, yet so powerful. Grievers want to be given an opportunity to share about their loss. Most people avoid grievers, leaving them isolated. The reality is, grieving people want and need to be heard.
I just heard what happened and I don’t know what to say – It’s common for people to not know what to say or be afraid of saying the wrong things, to a griever. This statement is helpful because you are a) being truthful and b) acknowledging the loss. It’s okay not to know what to say, but it’s helpful to communicate that with the griever. It’s not okay to avoid the griever completely, because you are at a loss for words.
I’m sorry – though many people say their sorry, it may not be perceived as being helpful. This statement is generally helpful IF you knew the person who died. Or else, it often gets the verbal and non-verbal response of, “You’re sorry? Why? You didn’t even know the person.” If you want to acknowledge the loss, you’re better off saying, “I was sorry to hear about your loss,” rather than, “I’m sorry.”
Hope you are now better equipped to talk to a grieving person.
From My Heart To Yours,
Asma – Houston therapist
Source: The Grief Recovery Institute®