What Do I Say?
Communicating with a Grieving Person
By Kelly Lamkin, LBSW
When you ask someone, “How are you,” do you really want them to tell you the honest truth or are you waiting for the standard answer of “I’m fine”? What if they were honest and told you that they were having a bad day? What if they started to cry? What would you do?
I would stop what I am doing, sit them down so we are eye to eye, look them in the eye and give them permission to get it out. Depending on the situation, I may hold their hand but no matter what I make sure I am present with them in that moment. In order to be present with a person you give your undivided attention to them, look them in the eyes, pay attention, listen, acknowledge what is being said, both verbally and nonverbally, and don’t put up any physical barriers between you and the other person.
When a grieving person is asked that question, most times they want to bust out and talk but don’t because of the thought: “No one has time to listen to me or they don’t care; they don’t want to listen to my problems.” It only takes a few minutes of your time to listen to a hurting, grieving heart. Wouldn’t you want someone to listen to you if the roles were reversed? Those moments spent with a grieving person can potentially be the most important moments of their lives. You may not even have to say many words because your presence will be all the person needs. Sitting in silence and listening to another person can be the best gift you can give to them and even to yourself. The look in a caring person’s eye can also warm a grieving person’s soul.
So remember, the next time you start to ask someone how they are, it could change their day and your day too!
To read more from Kelly Lamkin, find her on the Quality of Life blog at www.homehospice.org.