How does grief feel in words?

Show condolences: give comfort with the right words

Mourners need the support of confidants and friends. A clinic chaplain advises how to show understanding and compassion and what better not to say.

© dpa

Mourners don't need good advice; they need genuine compassion.

Showing condolences is not that easy. And mourners often do not expect words of comfort, but simply that they should be listened to, that they will be understood and accepted in their grief. Especially in the acute situation of loss, this is the only consolation that can be given, says clinic chaplain Klaus Schäfer.

Condolences do not help

"It will be allright." "You can do it." "You have to look ahead." Mourners hear these and similar sentences again and again as supposed consolation. Only a few have the strength in their pain to report back how much they violate these sentences or leave them alone in their grief.

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Expressing condolences: One can learn to comfort

Consoling can be learned, especially through dealing with those who mourn. Many people maintain contact, but never find out whether their words were helpful to the mourner or if they were more of a burden. Without this feedback, they think they have comforted. This is not always the case. This is why feedback is so important when it comes to comforting.

Expressing Condolences: Tips

- Suffering is a matter of feeling. Therefore you have to make sure that it is not the head but the heart that is addressed.
- Advice is also a blow. Making offers is much more helpful here.
- The shoe that fits me doesn't have to fit the other by a long way. It is important to pay attention to what is good for the mourner.
- A tear that you cry with is often more consolation than 100 wise sentences.
- Even if I cannot understand the grief, if it appears to me to be nothing, the mourner still has a right to it.
- In one's pain one also has the right to quarrel with God. That too is prayer.
- Consoling is understanding, sympathy and sharing in the grief of the mourner.

Condolences: what helps, what doesn't

Do not say: time heals all wounds. Then it is not the comforter that comforts, but the time.
Better say: The grief will remain, but the pain will subside. This is the experience of many mourners.

Do not say: you are still young. You can have a lot of children. This statement does not take the suffering seriously. None of the children born afterwards can make up for this loss.
Better say: It is arguably the worst that can happen to parents when they have to carry their child to the grave. It shows that you are concerned about losing a child. You show understanding.

Don't say: you have to let go of the deceased. It is saying that one should not mourn any more. That is an over-demand.
Better say: Nobody can forget the death of a loved one. This takes the pressure off the mourner that the mourning has to end at some point.

Don't say: Cheer up, you can do it! With such words, the mourner feels left alone in his grief.
Better ask: How do you do that? This expresses that one has thought about the situation of the mourner and has come to the conclusion that it must be very difficult.

Do not say: pray to God that He will give you strength to endure this suffering. Mourners often do not have this power. It's over-demanding. Often they can only address prayers of lamentation to Heaven.
Better say: I pray to God that he will give you strength to endure this suffering. The mourner does not have to do anything. He becomes the recipient.

Processing grief: What are the phases of grief?

The process of grief is very personal and is experienced differently by everyone. However, the same phases can almost always be distinguished. more

Coping with grief: Where the bereaved can find help

Numerous associations and self-help groups offer help and support to those who grieve. Affected persons can find contact in person, by telephone and via the Internet. more

Source: Otto Berg Burials

| Updated: October 2, 2019

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