We all have known a friend, family member or co-worker that is grieving over a major loss in their life. It is something we all go through personally multiple times in our lives, let alone the number of times we feel the pain through all the people we know who face the same situation.
The default approach is one of empathy and most will say that is the most natural way to go. We all try to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, and people will say “I know how you feel” and offer a story that somehow relates to the situation at hand (but it doesn’t always relate.)
I find one issue with going that route, and that is, unless you are the person that is grieving, you really don’t know how they feel regardless of what you say. I had a major life changing event in my teens when I lost my best friend and I heard the whole gambit of “I know how you feel” and it didn’t bother me then but thinking back, it changed how I respond to others now.
Now, I try not to say the classic line of “I know how you feel” because I don’t. Know why I don’t? Because everyone handles things differently. Some can carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and never shed a tear but someone else, a death could decimate their entire life for years to come.
Other ways to show empathy are to find ways to make their life easier in any way possible. Find ways to take the stress off them and let them grieve in peace. You’re better off with a hug than saying the wrong things to begin with. Just be helpful, actions will always speak louder than words anyway.
Be there for them, even if it means not saying much at all as the kindest things in this world don’t need to be said.