How do we respond to the person who is grieving a sudden death or a death of any kind?
Don’t avoid the grieving person. The ones who grieve don’t want their pain to dominate everything, but they do want it acknowledged.
Don’t explain the unexplainable. Don’t work out your own anger or sadness in the presence of the grieving person. Avoid saying, “He’s in a better place” or “God had a reason for this.” Statements like that may or may not be true, but they should not be offered. Statements like, “I know how you feel” fall flat. No one knows how a grieving person feels.
We have no concept of how a grieving person should be doing. They don’t either. The best—and hardest—thing we can do is to give them space and not judge their process.
Do say “I’m so sorry” and “I love you.” Sit with the person. Be there. Know when to come and when to go. Look for practical ways to help.
This message was adapted from “Words in times of grief” written by Susan Roy that first appeared in the January 2012 issue of Café. Today we remember the visit of Mary to Elizabeth.