10 Things To Say To a Grieving Friend During the Holidays {12.15.11}

During this first holiday season without my dad around, it’s not the Christmas hubbub that gets me down; it’s the awkward silence. Friends who have lost loved ones tell me people just don’t know what to say; they’re fearful of making me cry, saying the “wrong” thing or getting emotional themselves. So, I thought long and hard about the words that have comforted my family and what I’ve learned from friends who have experienced great loss.

1. I am thinking of you. 
Sounds so simple, but it means so much to know someone out there is aware you are in pain, and thinking good thoughts about you.

2. What you’re going through totally sucks.
Plain and simple, the journey through grief is shitty. It feels good to have others validate this fact and acknowledge you’re hurting – in a real and gritty way.

3. I’m sending you love during this difficult time.
When it seems heartfelt, this is a huge comfort. Don’t worry that you might not know a person well enough to say it. I have received notes and tweets from people I barely know sending their love. Every time, it’s felt like a warm blanket of human kindness.

4. May peace present itself more and more with every day. 
I’ve heard people say “may you find peace,” but this small shift in language touched my heart when a friend said it. It allows me to just sit back and trust that, in time, peace will find me.

5. I really want to support you this season. 
People in grief usually have no clue how you can help them, so you’ll need to offer some suggestions. A few holiday possibilities: decorate the Christmas tree, bake cookies together, bring coffee over, help to wrap presents or address holiday cards, go shopping together, clean the house, babysit the kids, accompany your friend to a holiday gathering, shovel the driveway. Do not be offended if your friend turns down every offer you make; simply knowing you’re willing and able to help might be enough for the time being.

6. I don’t expect a call back. 
For over a week after my dad died, a dear friend called me every day and just left a message to say she loved me and was thinking of me. At the end of each message, she’d remind me that she didn’t expect a call back. She knew that when I had the energy to call, I would. When I eventually called her back, I felt no guilt. Such a gift!

8. You can cry with me anytime. 
Grief comes in waves and sometimes catches you off guard. You only want to spend time with people who accept you and support you as you are – even if you’re happy one minute and sobbing the next.

9. Can I share a favorite memory of __________?  
Though it may be emotional, sharing stories of the person who passed can be really therapeutic for those left behind. Share how he or she impacted your life or bring up stories you remember your friend sharing about their relationship.

10. There is no “right” way to grieve. 
Remind your bereaved friend {and yourself} that everyone deals with grief differently. There are no rules or expectations. During the holidays, some people find it impossible to carry on with family traditions, while others find comfort in them.

I hope this list serves you well either now or in the future, as you support a dear heart who’s hurting. Got another example of good things to say? Do tell!

Liv Lane

Liv Lane

As an intuitive adviser, author & teacher, I help brave-hearted women illuminate their paths to purpose through powerful classes, individual readings, workshops and writings. This blog, started in 2006, chronicles my journey and offers light for yours. Thrilled you're here!
Liv Lane