How To Comfort the Bereaved

When I was in the beginning stages of grief and experiencing a deep despondency, I didn’t know who to turn to.Most of my girlfriends were either single or divorced and I knew they could not possibly understand the pain and suffering I was going through. Now there were a few exceptions, friends whom I knew, both male and female,who would allow me to talk and would even sometimes weep with me. I needed that, no words, no criticisms or opinions, just the comfort of a good listening ear and sometimes a really big hug.

During this time I also felt as though I wasn’t sure where my husband had gone. Yes, he really did die, but I just wasn’t sure where he was. It seemed as though he’d just vanished, disappeared, gone away…… but where was he? Later as I talked to others who had lost a spouse, I would find that this was a common thread, not with everyone, but with some. There’s this odd sense that the deceased spouse isn’t completely gone…. that they still linger somewhere in the ether. There are many odd sensations in the early days of grief and no one really talks about them. It is also during the early days that we find the bereaved numb, fragile and in a state of shock.To the outisde world they appear to be “handling everything well”. In reality, however, they are not able to describe what they’re going through, because they’ve never had such an experience before. They are grappling with the past and present while quietly trying to keep their wits about them.

I would suggest that those who attempt to comfort try to be the compassionate listening ear. Have patience with your friend or relative. Don’t admonish the bereaved for being slow to make decisions, forgetful, and confused. And please, please don’t point out things you perceived to have been “wrong” in the marriage. Don’t bring up the deceased person’s negative qualities or how you truly felt about him or her. Don’t compare your losses (by divorce, separation etc.) to their fresh loss “by death”. Remember, it is about them not you, and in their initial time of need, those who are grieving will want you to be there with patience, sympathy, a listening ear, and most of all love.

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