Not sure what to do or say to someone in grief? Here are 5 tips.

Chances are you may know someone who is bereaved, or that you soon will. And while your heart may be in the right place, you might be at a loss for words. Out of fear that they may say the wrong thing and cause more hurt, many people instead avoid bereaved friends and relatives. But dodging the bereaved may damage your relationship. Here are five things you safely can and should say and do:

Kristin A. Meekhof    Kristin A. Meekhof graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Kalamazoo College with a major in psychology. She completed the clinical Master in Social Work program at the University of Michigan, and is a licensed social worker. In 2007, when Kristin Meekhof was 33, her husband (a teacher and veteran) of four years was diagnosed with advanced adrenal cancer. Approximately eight weeks later, he died.

Editor:  Nadeem Noor

1. Become transparent.

Simply say, “I can’t imagine your pain. I simply do not know what to say.” While this may seem like an obvious statement, it is still sensitive and truthful. Your honesty will be more appreciated than a meaningless platitude.

2. Share a memory of the loved one.

These thoughts can be expressed in person or in writing. If you spent time with the deceased when the bereaved wasn’t present, it is a thoughtful gesture to give them these memories It is another way for them think about their spouse, child, sibling, or friend.

3. Offer practical help.

This is an action-oriented item. It might be providing child care or helping them clean out a storage unit. No task is too small—do not hesitate to pitch in and help. Chances are that others are standing on the sideline and have not offered to contribute.

4. Send in a photograph.

Passing along a printed picture is a significant gesture of love. In an age of social media, you may assume the bereaved has viewed all snapshots of their loved one, but this often is not the case. You can simply say, “I thought you would appreciate this special memory.”

5. Offer to meet them for a meal or bring a meal and sit with the bereaved.

After the funeral, mealtimes can become stressful for the bereaved, as their loved one’s absence becomes especially noticeable. This doesn’t mean that you have to initiate a therapy session, but being present for them is a helpful act. Grief is an intensely lonely experience, and offering your support aids in the healing process. Do not be afraid to reach out and lend help. It is never too late.

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