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3 Steps for Supporting Grieving Family and Friends: Support vs. Comfort

What is the difference?  Well, comfort suggests a longing to free someone from their pain and make them feel a smaller amount of sadness, while support suggests a longing to offer assistance. Over time you’ve probably become good at the comfort part (we all have), so when you approach someone who is grieving your first inclination may be to fall back on words of positivity.  You really want to take away their hurt and so you find yourself saying things that look for a silver lining and which begin with “at least”.  Platitudes, “at leasts”, and inspiring statements may be well meant, but they often lessen the significance of a person’s loss and make it seem as though you either don’t care or aren’t giving attention to the reality that is in front of you.

Instead of endeavoring to comfort the person who’s grieving, we recommend focusing on what you can do to support them in moving forward through the hurt.  Try starting with the following three steps:

  1.  Reiterate:

       “I do not want to provide comfort. I want to provide support.”

  1. Ask yourself:
  • What form of support is proper bearing in mind the closeness and/or tone of my relationship with the person who’s grieving?
  • What does my friend or family member appear to need?  Emotional support? Logistical support? Both?
  • What am I good at? What am I most skilled of providing?  What unique strong points do I have that could be helpful?
  1.  Significant things to do:
  • Show sincere care and compassion:
    • No one knows the right thing to say, so stop stressing.
    • Focus on giving the person care and compassion. Sometimes this is as simple as asking how the person is doing and then actually listening to what they have to say.
  • Provide concrete assistance:
    • It’s useful to offer specific help. Consider a list of things you can do and then just go ahead and offer – they can always say no.
  • Actively listen:
    • Talking to someone who will simply listen is sometimes precisely what a person needs.  
  • Be present:
    • Without hovering, be available to the griever by letting them know they can call at any time and by casually check in once in a while.
  • Remember:  
    • Grief lasts forever and people often continue to struggle for months and years after a death.  
    • Continue to check in sporadically, especially on days that might be hard like birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, milestones and special events.  This will send the message that you understand and accept their enduring pain.  
    • Don’t be afraid to remember the person who has died by saying their name and sharing memories of them.

Please let us know what other tips you have for those supporting grieving family and friends, comment below or contact us.

(361) 575-5900 office

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