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Walking with Sorrow: What to Say and Do to Help a Grieving Friend

27 Mar

We, at Health Journeys, are always moved by the sincerity of the people who call us to ask whether we have anything that could help their loved ones, who are grieving. We are equally moved when we get calls from people seeking help for their own grief.

When this happens, I often reflect on Belleruth’s recent post, titled Do’s and Don’ts for the Bereaved and Their Well-meaning Friends. This subject is rarely covered. Her suggestions could help people make peace with their own sorrow, and minimize confusion for those of us seeking to console our grieving friends.

We never know when we’ll be called upon to walk with someone who is experiencing the sorrow of losing a loved one. For me, this happened recently when a dear friend, whom I’ve known for years, died suddenly. To say she had been a light in the lives of everyone who knew her would be an understatement.

She had been happy and healthy until a few minutes before she died, leaving her husband of more than 40 years, four grown children and many grandchildren in a state of shock. As I prepared to greet the mourners, I reflected on what I had read about what to say and do and I just connected with the compassion I felt for her family.

What amazed me was the tone of the comments I heard from some well-wishers. I’m certain most of them meant well, but as we have all done, they just said the wrong thing because they didn’t know what else to say.

Her death was a tragic loss that was actually palpable in the room where her family had gathered. It left a hole in the lives of those who saw her on a daily basis, yet people made comments such as, “You’re lucky she didn’t get old and suffer,” and “It’s good this happened now, while you’re still young enough to find someone else.”

Because we never know when we’ll need deal with grief, or reach for the wisdom to console a friend, I am happy to refer again to Belleruth’s Do’s and Don’ts for the Bereaved and Their Well-meaning Friends.

I am also happy to recommend Health Journeys’ Ease Grief, by Belleruth Naparstek, and Traci Stein’s Self-Compassion Meditations to those who are experiencing the loss of a loved one.

We have received feedback from many people, who tell us that Belleruth’s Heartbreak, Abandonment & Betrayal is also helpful for those seeking to mend the heartbreak of losing a loved one.

Walking with sorrow is never easy, but in the words of Robert Browning’s Along the Road, it has much to teach us.        

I walked a mile with Pleasure.                  

She chattered all the way.
But left me none the wiser

For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow.

And ne’er a word said she,

But oh the things I learned from her

When Sorrow walked with me.

As always, we welcome your comments, stories and feedback. We love hearing from you 

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Maggie DeMellier

Maggie DeMellier has been Health Journeys go-to customer service representative and marketing associate since March 2012. She worked as a surgical technician and pharmacy technician before she earned a BA in Mass Media Communication at The University of Akron. She operates a freelance writing business, specializing in medical ads, news articles, police blotters, features and business writing.  She was a teacher at a career college for six years, and earned a MA in Forensic Psychology in 2010. Maggie is the co-author of Parenting by Law or Grace, published by Synchronisity Press, in 2004.