By Jennifer Hacker

– The best piece of advice I can give you is “Don’t avoid talking to the grieving person about their loved one.” Most people avoid the merest mention of the person who died because they think, “She seems to be doing well today so I don’t want to upset her or remind her of this terrible thing that happened.” I can assure you, you won’t be reminding anyone about the loss. They have not forgotten. And they would love an invitation and an opportunity to talk about their loved one. So ask about the loved one who died; tell stories about the loved one who died; encourage your loved one to talk about the person they lost.

– Get comfortable with tears … it’s OK if everyone cries.

– It’s OK to say, “I don’t know what to say.” It’s a far better thing to say than “I’m sorry.” You don’t have to try to come up with any magic words … there aren’t any. Just be there for the one you love and in being there, you let them know how much you care.

– Don’t ask, “How are you?” This is really a silly question … it pretty much guarantees a non-responsive answer of “OK” or “Fine.” A much better question is “What things are you thinking and feeling today?” This is so much better because it is an invitation to talk about whatever is on their mind and however they are feeling. It is a question that encourages an honest and open dialogue rather than the obligatory “fine.”

– Don’t try to make the grieving person feel better by reminding them of all the things they still have … children, good health, spouse, house, money for retirement, whatever. When someone is mourning a terrible loss, to tell them to “look on the bright side” minimizes their feelings and their loss. A person who is grieving not only cannot look on the bright side, they probably don’t want to. They need and want to honor their pain.

– Everyone grieves differently. For me, I had a very hard time hearing “everything happens for a reason” or “everything will work out for the best.” But one thing that I could stand to hear and actually believe was, “It will not always hurt this bad. Yes, it will always hurt and yes you will always miss Jackson, but the pain will not always be this intense. Life will be good again someday.”

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