When Someone is Grieving

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: Sometime in the past, I was approached and asked to respond to the following question: “What should you say, and what should you not say to someone who is grieving?”

Grief can result from any loss (i.e., loss of a loved one, loss of a job, divorce, rejection by children, the onset of dementia in an aging parent or spouse, the loss of a home by fire, the unfaithfulness of a spouse, and etc.). Having been trained as a psychologist, and having pastored for the past 40 years, I believe I know how to react in situations where someone is grieving, but to respond to that question in writing was difficult. So, I researched the subject, and below are some of the responses I found. Keep in mind that no two people grieve the same way, and therefore, your response to the grieving person will be dictated by their need.

Things not to say:

• I understand.

• You must be strong.

• Be strong for the children.

• You must move on.

• Get a hold of yourself.

• Others have it worse than you.

Things Not to Ask:

• What did you do wrong?

Things Not to Do:

• Don’t attempt to minimize the other person’s pain.

•Don’t try to explain what God is doing behind the scenes.

• Don’t compare what the other person is going through to ANYTHING else or ANYONE else’s problem.

• Don’t use clichés and platitudes (i.e., empty words or statements).

• Don’t instruct the person.

• Don’t forget the person a week or two after the loss.

Things that may be helpful to say:

I’m so sorry to hear about your loss.

• I can’t imagine what you are going through.

• I don’t know what to say, but I’ll be glad to listen.

Things you might ask:

• How are you really feeling?

• What can I do to help?

Things you might do:

• A wordless hug.

• A card that says simply, “I grieve with you.”

• Pray.

• Then pray some more. It’s the most powerful thing we can say or do.

• Remember to pay a visit to the person who experienced a loss during the weeks and months following the loss.

After reading the above suggestions, I would be interested in hearing from you. This is a subject we can all learn from. Please consider responding in the editorial section of the Delta Discovery and sharing your thoughts on the subject. That way, others can benefit.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel.  For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK  99559, or e-mail them to [email protected].

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