How to Say "I'm Sorry" to the Grieving Family

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The loss of a loved one can be a devastating emotional blow for anyone. As a person goes through the mourning period, in order to provide some measure of comfort, it is important to be able to express your sorrow for their loss. This message, which should be delivered through both words and deeds, can be expressed by being there to help the person grieve as well as providing them with the emotional support they need in order to move on with their life.

Helping a person grieve and a family to reorganize requires both time and patience on your part. You must be able to connect with your friend or a family's sense of loss and be able to commit to the amount of time it may take to help a person through the process. Here are some things that may help you provide both comfort and support in a loved one's time of need.

Showing Gestures of Support

Saying I'm Sorry to a Grieving Loved One

One of the most important gestures that you can make when the loss of a loved one occurs is to recognize the loss for what it is. In other words, use the terms "death" and "died" as oppose to euphemisms such as "passed.” The language we use when helping someone come to terms with their loss is important, if we want to help the person process the pain and deal with the impact of the loss on their lives. When you're saying "I'm sorry," make sure to stay in the present—euphemisms like "he or she had a great life" or that they've gone "to a better place" don't provide much comfort. Stick to what's right in front of you: "This hurts, but I'm here for you, I love you and I want to help."

Understand the process of grief and the fact that we all grieve in different ways. There is no standard rule of thumb for how long a person should feel pain and anguish over the death of a family member. Learning the stages of grief will help you provide the right type of support for as long as it is needed, as well as to recognize when such grief may require referral to a professional such as a group therapist or bereavement counselor if the state of anguish turns into depression or hampers the person's ability to move on with their own life.

Providing Assistance with Everyday Tasks

Attending to the physical needs of a person may also be one of the most important ways you can say "I'm Sorry." The everyday activities that we all take for granted may suddenly become unimportant or unmanageable for someone who is grieving, so it may be your job to pitch in and help out for a while. Providing a home cooked meal on occasion, walking the family pet, babysitting or volunteering to clean and take care of the grocery shopping are all simple gestures and expressions of support that can have a huge impact on the bereaved. Taking on these tasks may also allow the bereaved the time needed to process their loss and recover or recognize the need for additional help.

When you're comforting someone who's just lost a loved one, it's important to stay present in the moment with them. Remember that their grief is theirs, and don't make it about you. Anticipate their needs and do what you can to support them before they have to ask for help. It may feel inadequate to simply say "I'm sorry" to someone dealing with a loss, but the comfort and support that you can bring to someone hurting may be just what they need to find the strength to heal and recover from such a difficult loss.