Those we love don't go away, they walk beside us everyday, unseen, unheard but always near, still loved, still missed, and very dear. - Author UnknownHearing about the loss of someone close to you, be it your friend, colleague, or someone in the family, puts you in an uncomfortable and difficult situation. Words are inadequate at that time. On top of that, it is a big dilemma that you face as to what to say and how to comfort a bereaved person. You want to show your feelings and genuinely offer help, however, what if you offend or depress the person even more?
This SocialMettle article suggests some ways to express condolences, which may save you from this situation, which is often awkward for many.
Things You Should Do
Visiting the person who has suffered a loss is a great gesture, and has to be done without saying if you know them personally. Once at their place, be attentive and hear patiently as to what the grieving person has to say. Sometimes, a simple hug or holding hands conveys your feelings and expresses the unsaid. You can sense the person's emotional turmoil by simply listening to him or her. Venting out their feelings will make them feel better. A person who has suffered a loss will usually be in denial, angry, disappointed, and may feel alone. You should assure them and let them talk about their loved one. If they don't want to talk about it, don't pressurize or force them to do so. But you have to do more listening than talking yourself.
Be There and Reach Out
Mostly, people feel awkward and are clueless as to what to say or do in such situations. However, after you come to know about their loss, make sure you reach out to the grieving person. You can do so by sending a card or a note to show that you care. Keep the messages short and simple. Saying words like, "I am sorry for your loss. You are in my thoughts and prayers.", or "Please know that I am here for you.", will show your genuine concern and sympathies. Sending a printed card is what most people prefer, however, writing a note yourself will give it a more personal touch.
Send Flowers or a Gift
You can even send flowers or a gift with a card along that will convey your feelings to the family of the deceased. You can donate money to charity. A gift which may help lift up their spirits, such as an inspirational book, gift basket, picture frame, etc., can help lighten their mood during this difficult time. You could even send fruit baskets or edible items to the family, but make sure these are not anything that gets soiled in no time.
If you knew the person well, you should offer help to the family to make the necessary arrangements for the funeral and related matters, or help them with chores like taking care of a baby in their house, picking their kids from school, or even things like mowing the lawn in the coming days.
If the news has been shared publicly, only then express sympathy on a social networking site. If you are in touch with your friend or acquaintance via email, then you can send out an email to console the family, once you come to know about their loss. Mentioning something that you respected and admired, or sharing a loving memory about the deceased person, will comfort surviving family members in a big way.
Remember the Birthday or Anniversary of the Deceased
Call the survivors on the deceased's birthday or anniversary, and offer your support. It shows that they are not the only ones to miss the departed soul. They will be touched, seeing that their loved one is remembered and commemorated.
Stay in touch and be there for the bereaved. You can also invite them to your place for dinner or a get-together. It will definitely help them cope up with the stress that they are experiencing.
What Not to Do
▬ Do not rush or force the family members into something like arranging the funeral or taking care of the deceased belongings. Let them take care of all this.
▬ Whenever you meet a person who has lost a loved one, do not ignore the issue or change the topic if the deceased name comes up during the conversation.
▬ Do not write long letters or paragraphs when sending cards or letters.
▬ Do not be preachy and rant on about how you coped up with a similar situation or how you felt. Just listen and let them do the talking.
▬ Don't be afraid of bringing up the name of the deceased in your conversation. Memories and remembrances are often cherished by the bereaved.
▬ Don't tell them what to do and avoid banal comments like "He is at peace now" or "He is at a better place now".
Coming to terms with the loss of a loved one takes time. Eventually, time will heal the wounds of the survivors, to some extent. It may be a small thing for some people, however, for the surviving family members, a little act of kindness, help, support, and empathy, through these heartfelt sympathies that people offer may go a long way in comforting them to some extent. These may help uplift their spirits and lessen their grief, somewhat.