“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
― Anne Lamott
Grief is difficult, painful, and transformative. We all want to support our loved ones in these heavy times.
Unfortunately, few of us know how to do so effectively. We put our own expectations on them. We feel uncomfortable. We struggle to understand them. We feel guilty and unable to connect. Most often, we become so paralyzed from fear of saying the wrong thing that we neglect to say anything substantial at all.
The next time you are searching for the right words, try some variation of these sentiments. Your loved one will appreciate the thought.
Here are seven kind and meaningful things to say to a loved one during their time of grief:
1. “This can’t be easy. How about I cover your kids’ school drop-off and pick-up for awhile?”
Asking how we can help is kind – but offering a specific service is more likely to be accepted. Take a chore off of your loved one’s hands. Even small things can feel insurmountable in times of grief.
2. “I’ve been wanting to paint. Will you join me? I’ll bring supplies.”
Everyone works through their emotions differently – and art therapy can be a powerful tool. So can exercise, humor, and time in nature. Help your friend to find a medium to express their grief in a way that makes sense to them.
3. “Did I tell you what happened at spin class?”
We tend to act strange around people who are grieving a loss. Mindless small talk is often a welcome distraction from heavier issues, and a reminder that life really does go on.
4. “Let’s get coffee tomorrow. What time works for you?”
Grief, depression, and isolation tend to feed off of one another. Make sure to check in with your grieving friend. Stop by with a burrito or a good book if they don’t feel up to leaving the house.
5. “We don’t have to talk about what happened.”
Sometimes a grieving person feels overwhelmed by pressure to talk about their feelings. While some people process emotions this way, others do not. Respect your loved one’s comfort level and let them share as they feel like sharing.
6. “Let me know if you’d ever like to get together for a good cry.”
Crying is healthy and universal. Unfortunately, many people still feel shame surrounding this natural act. Let your loved one know that tears do not make you uncomfortable and you’re happy to keep them company.
7. “I can’t even begin to understand how you feel right now.”
Don’t try to compare experiences with grief – each one is as unique as the person enduring it. By expressing this, you are showing sincerity and a willingness to connect in a genuine way.
“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them,” wrote Leo Tolstoy.