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Conversations with mourners- how to help

When we first hear that someone has suffered a loss, we often try to reach out to them, in person, via text, phone call or email. We sometimes are asked to sign a group condolence card. It can be so difficult to know what to say or write under these circumstances. We want to be compassionate and say/write kind things.

In their book “There is no good card for this”, the authors devote a chapter to kindness as a credential. The value of simple kindness is the fact that “At its core kindness is a total absence of ego and self interest in doing something for someone else.” (Page 58). Kindness spurs from compassion. With compassion we notice, feel, and respond. At its core, compassion is the acceptance of suffering.

Here are a few suggestions, from Dr. Ron Wolfson, an inspirational speaker, for opening a conversation with a mourner:

“I’m so sorry to hear about your loss.”

“I’m so sorry about your (mother; brother; etc. or name the deceased)”

“I don’t know what to say. This must be really tough for you.”

“I hurt for you.”

“(Name the deceased) loved you so much.”

“I hope you can hold on to the good memories.”

All these examples share a few traits in common. They allow you to express your heartfelt sympathy and they allow you to be genuine and don’t allow you to hide your own feelings. A second suggestion is to share special memories or stories about the person who died. This helps the bereaved know how much their loved one meant to you.

A few other suggestions of what to say at a funeral include:

“I can’t imagine how you feel.”

“Take the time you need and be gentle with yourself.”

In real life or online, it’s hard to go wrong when you are showing support, sharing grief and memories. Consider what you would expect and want from certain people if you experienced a death of a loved one. Dr Kortes-Miller sums it up perfectly with “Give that back to them.” (Talking about Death Won’t Kill You, Page 155)

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