Helping a friend or loved one after the experience a loss.
What should I say?
If you are attending a funeral or memorial service or writing a condolence note, you may find yourself unsure of what to say or do. Know that acknowledgement of the loss is appreciated; too often people shy away from this difficult act. You might keep in mind the follow:
- Mention the name of the person who died. Share how you knew the person if you do not know the family.
- Avoid clichés: Everything will be ok. You have to be strong. It's a blessing. I know how you're feeling. Few of these lines are really helpful as they assume things that you don't know to be true.
- People often appreciate a kind or happy memory of their loved one. Can you remember a time, even a very small moment, when you had a good interaction with the deceased that you might share?
- The blanket question, "How are you doing?" is often not very helpful because, really, what can the person say? However, try asking something specific, perhaps including an offer to help, e.g., How is your garden? Do you need help with it? or How is his dog? Can I walk it until you find a new home for it?
- Don't be afraid to be physical. A hug or a strong handshake and a sincere look into the other person's eyes can say as much-or more-than many words.
- Finally, be sure that the interaction, whether in person or in writing, is focused on your friend and the deceased. This is not a time to talk about your self.