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Expressions of Sympathy

Expressions of Sympathy

This article will guide you in ways to turn your cares and concerns into positive actions.

Listen with your heart.

Help begins with your ability to be an active listener. Your physical presence and desire to listen without judging are critical helping tools. Don't worry so much about what you will say. Just concentrate on listening to the words that are being shared with you.



Be compassionate.

Give your friend permission to express his or her feelings without fear of criticism. Never say, "I know just how you feel." You don't. Allow your friend to experience all the hurt, sorrow and pain that he or she is feeling at the time. Enter into your friend's feelings, but never try to take them away.



Avoid clichés.

Words, particularly clichés, can be extremely painful for a grieving friend. Comments like, "You are holding up so well," "Time heals all wounds," "Think of all you still have to be thankful for" or "Just be happy that he's out of his pain" are not constructive.



Understand the uniqueness of grief.

Keep in mind that your friend's grief is unique. No one will respond to the death of someone loved in exactly the same way. Because the grief experience is also unique, be patient. The process of grief takes a long time, so allow your friend to proceed at his or her own pace. Don't force your own timetable for healing.



Offer practical help.

Preparing food, washing clothes, cleaning the house or answering the telephone are just a few of the practical ways of showing you care. And, just as with your presence, this support is needed at the time of the death and in the weeks and months ahead.



Make contact.

Your presence at the funeral is important. At the funeral, a touch of your hand, a look in your eye or even a hug often communicates more than any words could ever say. Don't just attend the funeral then disappear, however. Remain available in the weeks and months to come, as well. Remember that your grieving friend may need you more later on than at the time of the funeral.



Share a favorite memory of the person who died.

Relate the special qualities that you valued in him or her. These words will often be a loving gift to your grieving friend, words that will be reread and remembered for years. Use the name of the person who has died either in your personal note or when you talk to your friend.



Be aware of holidays and anniversaries.

Your friend may have a difficult time during special occasions like holidays and anniversaries. These events emphasize the absence of the person who has died. Learn from it. And, most importantly, never try to take away the hurt.



Understanding the importance of the loss.

Remember that the death of someone loved is a shattering experience. As a result of this death, your friend's life is under reconstruction. Consider the significance of the loss and be gentle and compassionate in all of your helping efforts.



About the Author

Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt is a noted author, educator and grief counselor. He serves as director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado and presents numerous workshops each year across North America. Among his many bestselling books are "Understanding Your Grief", "Healing a Friend's Grieving Heart" and "The Mourner's Book of Hope". For more information visit the website: centerforloss.com or phone 970-226-6050. You can reach out to Dr. Wolfelt directly at DrWolfelt@centerforloss.com



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