Being Present With Grief

Grief is best served when witnessed by a loving presence.  This is the ointment needed to soothe the wounds of a grieving person, according to renowned grief specialist, David Kessler.

Very often, those around the grieving person struggle to find the right words or offer the perfect condolence, in hopes that they can eliminate some degree of pain.  However good the intentions, the reality of grief is that pain is inevitable. Kessler goes on to say that suffering is optional. The best role a concerned friend can play is to be present with the grieving person and the pain.  In other words, no fixing and just being allows for necessary pain and minimizes suffering.

When we are with a grieving friend, there are some things to say that are better than others.  Common errors include: “there’s a reason for everything,” or “be strong,” or “I know how you feel.”

According to Kessler, the ten below are some of the best:

  1. I am so sorry for your loss.
  2. I wish I had the right words- just know I care.
  3. I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in any way I can.
  4. You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.
  5. My favorite memory of your loved one is….
  6. I am always just a phone call away.
  7. I am usually up early or late, if you need anything.
  8. We all need help at times like this, I am here for you.
  9. Give a hug instead of saying something.
  10. Saying nothing, just be with the person.

At their core, these statements are relational.  Being present with a person in pain can be upsetting, but it is also a privileged moment that can pave the pathway to healing the heart.

Sheri Schulze, LAPC