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It can be difficult to know what to say during the first contact with someone who has just suffered a loss.  Many avoid the griever because they lack the right words. There are no perfect words. Grievers are often appreciative for the quieter people who genuinely care and want to be with them.   Asking a grieving person how they are will usually get an "I'm fine" response. We are all pretty good at masking our feelings. Remember too not to "affirm" someone who is "doing so well" or "taking this so well". This often locks a person in to feeling that when they "fall apart" a few minutes, hours or weeks later, they will be letting those around them down.

Your presence makes a difference. Sometimes just a hug or hand squeeze can express what you are feeling better than words.  Most grievers remember the people who stayed near them on the first day or so more than anyone's words. Often the best thing to do is to "show up, shut up and listen with your heart".  Grievers often need to just have us present and willing to simply listen.  It is okay to ask, "how did you hear" or "what happened?". Then be prepared to just listen. It is in the telling of our stories that the healing begins. Broken hearts are truly open hearts.

Show compassion. Compassion means opening your heart to another person and being truly present with the griever.  Set aside your own worries and needs and be available to him or her.  Often this means saying little or nothing at all. 

These Are Some Helpful Words That Grievers Have Shared with Me:
I am sorry.
I don't know what to say. There are no words. 
I am here for you.
I can listen if you like.
I know I can't fix anything for you but I want you to know I care.
Take all the time you need.
This must be very hard for you.

What's the hardest part?

How are you doing with all of this?

I'll call you tomorrow. (but only if you will)

I don't know why this happened either.
Yes, it isn't fair.


  • I wish I had the right words, just know that I care
  • I don't know how you feel, but I am here and if I can help let me know
  • You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers
  • My favorite memory of your loved one is....
  • I am always just a phone call or text away
  • Give a hug
  • We all need help at times like this, I am here for you
  • I am usually up early or late, if you need anything
  • Just be present, and patient and compassionate. 

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