Life Notes: Being There for Family
by David Wheeler, Ph.D.

I recently visited a great aunt who had lost her husband after over 50 years of marriage. While she was coping amazingly well, I found it difficult to know what to say and how to comfort her. I’m a psychologist. I talk with people and listen to people talk about their grief very often. However, in day to day life, I stumble for words or at times say very little to friends and loved ones about their losses. I have heard of other people saying things that may even make the bereaved feel worse in an attempt to comfort them.

I wonder how many other people feel incompetent when interacting with those who have lost loved ones. The realization that helps me, is that nothing I can say is likely to make much difference.

Although that may sound strange, think about it. What words could take away the pain of such a loss? I’m not saying that my presence (or yours) does not matter at times like these. Our “being there” does make a difference. I know that from being on the other side … the grieving side. The physical and emotional presence of a friend can make a tremendous difference when one is hurting. So don’t worry too much about what words to say. Don’t let the clumsy, awkward feeling prevent you from being there for the one who is grieving. Don’t try to say too much with words. Share a hug or a shoulder, and give them eye contact. You can communicate so much without saying a word. Just “be there,” and let them know you care. It WILL make a difference.

The Life Notes articles are written by staff of Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home and are published in The Ruston Daily Leader.

Accessibility Toolbar