Most of us have experienced losing a loved one. It’s an immediate, life-altering situation. And the ensuing grief can linger for months or years.
In the short-term, you feel it deep down inside. You’re sick to your stomach, your heart hurts and all you want to do is be alone. It’s understandable.
When a loved one experiences tremendous grief, you may not know how to help. What do you do? What do you say? Should you say anything at all?
There may be words you can say to ease his or her suffering, but sometimes the best way to comfort is not about what you say—it’s about listening.
Below, we’ll explain why listening is the best thing you to can do when someone is grieving and also some tips on how to be a good listener.
Why Listening Matters
Often the best way to comfort someone grieving is by listening. We may stumble over which words to say or what advice to give, but those details should take a back seat to listening.
When we listen, we don’t need to say anything. Listening can comfort and reassure the one grieving. It lets them know that if they need support, they have it.
Tips for Being a Good 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 tells you.
When someone is actively listening they are almost exclusively focused on what the other person is saying. Here are some tips on how to be a good active listener:
- 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 mourning.
- 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 person’s shoes and imagine what they could be feeling as they speak. Be genuinely empathetic of the situation.
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