The Two Things Grieving People Most Want to Hear

0 comments Posted on December 1, 2016

by Nancy Guthrie

It’s easy to sit with grieving people and swap stories about ridiculous, thoughtless, insensitive things people around them have said and done. Too easy, perhaps. What is much sweeter and certainly more helpful is to talk about what people have said or done that touched them deeply, what was especially meaningful and helped them not feel so alone in the midst of sorrow. So that’s what I asked people to do. I asked them, via an online survey to tell me what others said that was especially meaningful in the midst of grief. I noted two things in particular that grieving people told me over and over again that they really want people to say to them.

First, grieving people long to hear stories about the person who died and specific things he or she said or did that were meaningful and memorable. 

whatgrievingpeopleIt doesn’t require a seminary education or a counseling degree. It just requires a little effort in scouring your memory bank: grieving people long to hear stories about the person who died and specific things she said or did that were meaningful and memorable. They’re looking for something specific rather than general. They want something beyond “He was a really good guy,” or, “She really made me laugh.” They want to hear or read about a specific experience you had with the person who died that demonstrated he was a “good guy.” They want to hear something specific he said that made you laugh. Instead of hearing that he was “always there for you,” they want to hear about a specific time and way the one who died helped you.

If you can write down your memories of the deceased so that the grieving person can read them now and also save them for later, your thoughtfulness becomes a gift that keeps on giving. And if the grieving one is active on social media, to post your memory online and invite others to share similar stories is a great way to get other friends in on this joyful remembering.

The second thing people told me they really want people to say to them—and this may be the most powerful way you can bring comfort to someone who is grieving—is to keep saying the name of the person who died.

So many people get uncomfortable with speaking of the deceased by name. They’re afraid it will be upsetting to the grieving person or make them sad when they seemed to be having a good day. But when someone keeps speaking of him or her with joyful remembrance, it does something nothing else can do. It doesn’t have to be a big deal or an emotional conversation. The more natural, the better. Something like: Remember how John used to make the best barbeque? Or, I wish Barbara was here to give me some advice about my garden. Hers was always so lovely. Oh, to hear that person’s name. It is like salve to an aching soul, music to a heart that has lost its song.

Content taken from What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps (and What Really Hurts) by Nancy Guthrie, ©2016. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187.

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