I’ve noticed that people who have been through difficult experiences seemingly know the right things to say and do for another person going through a similar situation. Death can be an especially difficult subject for many and never knowing what to say or what not to say, or even if anything should be said at all.
I’ve been on both sides of those conversations and there is no perfect formula for knowing what to say all the time. I’ve wanted to comfort the person who has experienced a loss but I didn’t want to say something that may stir up sadness or make them uncomfortable. I also did not want to tell them that I knew what they are going through, because they could be in a completely different state of grief than what I walked through.
In short, overthinking this conversation may result in a missed opportunity to just be present with a friend or even to observe what they truly need in the moment.
In my experience of losing a parent, I found the most comfort when a friend would make their condolences known through a phone message or sending a card. The simple fact that I knew that someone was out there, thinking about me and letting me know that they were praying for my comfort was a really big deal to me.
Another way friends or acquaintances showed their care, was by showing up: with food, flowers, or just leaving a basket of goodies and a small outdoor plant on our front porch.
When I would go to church or run into someone who knew what I was going through, ignoring the topic completely left me feeling overlooked and questioning the relationship I had with that person. They may have felt uncomfortable saying anything, but not saying anything was worse than saying the wrong thing.
There may be a lot of awkward comments said, but if I can get past the words and see the person’s heart instead, I will find someone who cares enough to say something, even when it’s hard.
We are all walking through some stage of loss in this life. It’s in the small moments: the simple written note, a caring smile, or even a phone call to check in. Just knowing that someone out there is caring for us makes a big difference.