JS Tip 486: Consoling Those Who Grieve

From the Communication Workshops: Consoling Those Who Grieve

This may be a difficult tip. 

Last week, we talked about delivering bad news.

This week, we’ll talk about consoling those who grieve. 

We’ll suggest some things to do and some things to avoid. 

  • Some things to do. Be there in body, mind, and spirit. Pay attention. Care. Listen. As you offer condolences, keep them simple and sincere. 

    Perhaps the best words to use are “I’m sorry.” That’s it. “I’m sorry” is empathy. It demonstrates that in some small way, you recognize their pain.

    Perhaps—perhaps, perhaps—reach out and touch. (Our world is complicated now.) A hand held, a hand on an arm, a hug may be appropriate, needed, and welcomed, but let the other person lead the way. 

    Some things to avoid. Be careful with the words “I understand.” Be very careful. “I understand” conveys a common experience, and, if you’ve not had that common experience, it becomes patronizing. (“No, you don’t understand!”) If you’ve had the common experience, it will be a bond. Otherwise, no. 

    Avoid the encouraging words. Avoid being chipper. “This is for the best,” “Everything happens for a purpose,” or “You’ll get over this” is not what the other person wants to hear right now.  

Much depends on the circumstances and the relationship. The key is to care and to convey that caring. That’s it.  

Next week, we’ll return to simpler matters.


Mark Brooks