WHAT TO SAY TO A GRIEVING FRIEND
Until the end of 2021, words of sympathy were something that I had only given, never received. I felt incredibly fortunate to had not yet experienced the loss of a friend or close relative (my grandparents died when I was young, so I don’t remember a great deal).
That all changed this year. Over a period of three weeks, my husband and I suffered the loss of a close friend, followed by the death of our beloved dog.
Grief. Goodness, the depths of it knows no bounds.
This article primarily offers etiquette advice on what to say to a grieving friend. It is also, to be honest, cathartic for me, and I appreciate the opportunity to indulge myself on this occasion.
So, the first point to make about responding with words of condolence to someone’s news is that deep, visceral grief is not solely felt for the loss of a human being but also the death of a pet.
For those who have never owned an animal, others’ depth of grief can be difficult to understand. However, it’s important to remember that our words of sympathy should aim to support the other person’s emotions, regardless of the reasons behind them.
LOVE IS LOVE.
LOSS IS LOSS.
GRIEF IS GRIEF.
WHAT WORDS OF SYMPATHY TO OFFER TO A GRIEVING FRIEND:
“I am so sorry for your loss.”
“Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.”
“You are in my thoughts and prayers” (even if the person isn’t practicing any religion, this can still provide them with much comfort).
“They will be missed by colleagues/friends” (In the case of a human).
“He/she was a wonderful person” (unless, of course, they weren’t; if it’s not sincere, then don’t say it!).
“I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to support you.”
“You were the best fur-parent any dog/cat could ask for.”
PHRASES TO AVOID:
“I know how you feel” (everyone’s grief differs).
“Are you going to get another one?” (In the case of an animal, of course!)
“I’m not surprised, considering their lifestyle.”
“At least they lived a long life.”
“They are in a better place.”
BEING PATIENT AND UNDERSTANDING
Grief surprised me. Previously, I had no idea the extent to which it affects one physically; painful muscles and a total lack of strength can be dibilitating.
And the brain fog, wow! Wrong dates, wrong times, and wrong names all threatened to jeopardise both my sanity and the success of my business during those dark weeks.
Like many of you, I pride myself on being a 100% reliable professional, and I aim to keep my personal life entirely independent of my professional one. For my body to fail me was hugely humbling and a reminder that we are all vulnerable human beings behind our business persona.
ACCEPTING HELP FROM OTHERS
Thankfully, I received so much kindness from my clients, who were both patient and understanding, and for that, I will always be grateful. I also received the most beautiful words of condolence from ladies in my online community that I had never even met. Through this I learnt never to underestimate the capacity of strangers to offer support when one needs it.
I also learnt not to be too proud to admit when one is struggling to deliver. The importance of paying it forward in life was never as prevalent as during that time.
But, as with all feelings, the intensity of the dark clouds decrease, and a slither of light reappears. I now understand that grief doesn’t move linearly, rather a circular process that ebbs and flows and gradually eases. Or, as some believe, one grows around it; it becomes a part of us rather than the all-consuming intensity of those first dark days and weeks.
May we all give others the grace they need to move through this inevitable storm, and hold the necessary space for when they are ready to rise again.