Losing a loved one is an immediate, life-altering situation—and the ensuing grief can linger for months or years to come.
When a family member or friend is coping with grief, it can be difficult knowing when and how to step in to help. What do you do? What do you say? Should you say anything at all?
Although there is no single perfect sentence to say that will ease their suffering, sometimes the best way to comfort someone during the grief stages is to be a good listener. Listening can comfort and reassure the one grieving. It lets them know that if they need support, they have it.
Continue reading to learn the importance of listening, why it can be the best act of support you can take when someone is coping with grief and some tips on how to be a good listener.
How to Be an Active Listener
Being an active listener involves more thought and effort than you may first think.
Active listening is making a conscious effort to understand what someone else is saying. Unlike most conversations when we often listen to respond, focus on understanding what the person's words and body language is telling you.
When someone is actively listening, they are almost exclusively focused on what the other person is saying. The following tips will ensure you’re being a good active listener when communicating with a grieving friend or family member:
- Keep eye contact. Focus your attention on the person grieving, and show him or her you understand by nodding your head or using other nonverbal cues.
- Don’t interrupt. If an idea pops into your head while you're listening to a loved one, consider keeping it to yourself. Interrupting doesn't help the situation.
- Focus. Don't let your mind wander as the bereaved shares his or her experience. Focus on the main message of their grieving and stay attentive.
- Avoid giving advice. This isn't about you or a time when you were grieving. This is more than an everyday conversation. Let them vent and be heard—and truly listen.
- Show you care.Put yourself in the other person's shoes and imagine what they could be feeling as they speak. Be genuinely empathetic of the situation.
- Stay engaged. Nodding your head will show you understand and sympathize. If you feel the timing is right, offer comforting words such as, “Your feelings are completely valid,” and/or “It’s okay to feel those emotions."
- Be present. It’s important to avoid all distractions while listening to your grieving loved one, especially picking up your cell phone. They are being vulnerable and open while sharing their feelings with you, so being present with them should be your top priority.
- Don’t go in with an agenda. Go into the conversation without any expectations. Do not be attached to a certain outcome—everyone grieves differently, making a conversation like this one difficult to control or predict.
More Grief Tips & Additional Resources
There will be times where you must be the good listener, but also times where you’re the one coping with grief. Milano Monuments provides several grief-related resources as well as memorialization and monument content in our weekly blog. Subscribe today to get these helpful resources and articles delivered straight to your inbox.