June 20, 2011 – Comfort for the Bereaved

My brother Jim emailed over today a great article on how to deal with people when they are grieving.  I thought it would be beneficial to share with anyone currently dealing with grieving situations or for use in the future when someone dies close to you. 

I don’t know anything about Fran Dorf who wrote this article so not sure what perspective she writes this from and obviously for us, an eternal Christian viewpoint is crucial.  

However, her suggestions seem appropriate as I read through them based upon our own recent experiences with Hannah’s death.  And I know they sure would have helped me in the past when in grieving situations as I”m sure I unknowingly made some innocent mistakes.  Here’s the summary from Fran:    


I’ve found that “de-legitimizers” can be divided into six categories…

 Babblers. These people chatter on about the weather, a friend who had a heart attack and so on. But ignoring the elephant in the room just makes it bigger.

Advice-givers. People often give advice, such as, “Start dating again”… “take a long vacation”… “concentrate on your other children”… “it’s time to get over it”… “remember the good times.” But when we hear this advice, we may interpret it as, “What’s wrong with you? If only you would take my wise counsel, you’d feel better.” I remember that people advised me to take a sedative, but somehow I knew that I needed to shed a certain number of tears (more than I could ever have imagined) and that it would be counterproductive to try to mask my pain with medication.

Platitude-offerers.When you spout clichés, such as, “God must have wanted him… he’s in a better place,” the bereaved may feel offended. You may prefer to believe God must have wanted him, but the bereaved person may hate God at the moment and thus feel de-legitimized for feeling what he feels.

Pseudo-empathizers. It’s particularly distressing for those experiencing “high grief” — for example, from the loss of a child — to hear, “I know just how you feel.” If you haven’t experienced the same loss, you have no idea how a person feels — and maybe not even then.

Lesson-learners. There may be profound lessons to be learned from tragedy, but it’s best to let others learn them in their own time and ways. Don’t say, “Everything happens for a reason”… “We must learn to appreciate our lives”… or “Life is short.”

Abandoners. Whatever the conscious or unconscious rationalizations — such as fear of saying the wrong thing or feeling uncomfortable in the face of grief — if you walk away from a friend who needs you, you’re probably walking away from the friendship permanently.


Take your cues from the bereaved person. If he’s sitting quietly, sit quietly beside him. If he’s using humor to cope, laugh a little.

Let the grieving person tell his/her story in as much detail as he chooses to, even if he repeats it and it’s hard to hear. It helps the bereaved to tell and retell the story. If you’re not sure how to respond, try simply, “I’m so sorry” or even, “I don’t know what to say.”

Read a book on grief. Or search on-line for information about grief under “grief” or “bereavement”. 

Acknowledge the deceased person. Tell a wonderful anecdote about him. Even now, I am grateful when someone mentions my son, Michael. Just saying his name aloud brings him back into the world.

Contact the bereaved on significant days — birthdays, death days, anniversaries. These are difficult, especially “firsts.” Don’t avoid, ignore or forget them.

Offer practical and specific support. Pick up the kids from school… cook a meal… mow the lawn. Don’t say, “Is there anything I can do?” or “Call me if you need me.” Decide what you can do, and then do it.

Stay in touch. Remember that when the formal mourning period is over and the last casserole is gone, the bereaved is still grieving. Continue to call and get together.

Banish the word “closure” from your vocabulary. There is no such thing, and who would want it anyway? We incorporate our losses into our lives. Psychologists have proposed many ways to describe how we find a way to live with loss, but the one I find most useful is that we must “reinvest” in a new reality.

Meet us where we are. Don’t have expectations. Don’t compare one grief to another. Remember that grief may take years to work through. Be prepared for tears, moaning, sighing, wailing, trembling, even screaming.

Excerpts above taken from an article called “How to Comfort a Bereaved Friend or Relative” by Fran Dorf.  Inspired by the loss of her son Michael, she shares suggestions about what to do or not to do – and what to say or not to say –when someone you know grieves.   

We would love to hear your thoughts on this!  Also, if you’ve been through similar situations either recently or in the past, do you have any other suggestions on what to do or not to do that could help others? 

Lastly, remember again, the story ends well for those that love the Lord!  Jesus Saves and has allowed us in Him to overcome death! 

Keeping our eyes on Jesus!  Bill

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