Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Feature: Saying the right things at a time of grief

From WITT COMMUNICATIONS. Check out my new blog, www.christopherwitt.com.
The recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut – the school shooting which took the lives of 20 children and 7 adults – all too painfully raises the question: What do you say in times of sorrow to those who grieve?

There is no easy answer.

Because it is so difficult to know what to say, we sometimes avoid saying anything at all. Unfortunately, our silence may only add to the grieving person’s sense of isolation. Or, worse, in an effort to lessen the person’s pain, we may say something thoughtless and insensitive, and compound their pain.

Here are my suggestions.

Do NOT say anything like, “I know what you’re going through.” You don’t know (you can’t know) what another person is feeling or thinking, even if you yourself have been through something similar.

Do NOT resort to platitudes, well-meaning or otherwise. Saying “He’s in a better place now” or “There must be a reason for this” or “God has a plan for everything” may not reflect the grieving person’s beliefs, and may offend the person you most want to console.

Do NOT try to take away another person’s grief. Bereavement is a natural response to and a way of honoring loss. Denying or downplaying people’s right to grieve does them a dishonor.

DO express your sympathy. A simple “I’m sorry for your loss” is often sufficient.

DO show your affection. Gestures – a touch, a hand on the shoulder, a hug – are often the most effective.

DO listen. People in grief need to talk about their loss, but they often sense other people’s discomfort so they say nothing. Allowing them to talk and to tell stories and to reminisce is a great kindness.

DO recognize the person’s continuing grief. Some loses are so great that a person never fully “gets over” them. And there are times (holidays, anniversaries, special occasions) when memories and the attendant sorrow resurface. So express your sympathy again, show your affection again, and listen again.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai