Amy Liebman Rapp, M.S.Ed., CT Certified in Thanatology - Death, Dying and Bereavement
Not for Profit Consultant
Bereavement Educator & Consultant
Children & Adolescent Grief Specialist
Professional Memberships: Association of Small Foundations (ASF); Association of Death Education & Counseling (ADEC); American Counseling Association (ACA); National Alliance for Grieving Children (NAGC)
DO'S AND DONT'S WHEN REACHING OUT TO A MOURNER*
DON'T: Force the mourner into a role,by saying,"You're doing so well."Allow the mourner to have troubling feelings without the sense of letting you down.
DO: Open the door to communication. If you aren't sure what to say, ask,"How are you feeling today?" or "I've been thinking about you. How is it going?
DON'T: Tell the mourner what he or she "should do".At best, this reinforces the mourner's sense of incompetence, and at worst, your advice can be "off target" completely.
DO: Listen 80% of the time, and talk 20% of the time.Very few people take the time to listen to someone's deepest concerns. Be one of the few. Both you and the mourner are likely to learn as a result.
DON'T: Say, "Call me if you need anything".Vague offers are meant to be declined, and the mourner will pick up on the cue that you implicitly hope he or she won't contact you.
DO: Offer specific help, and take the initiative to call the mourner. If you also respect the survivor's privacy, your concrete assistance with the demands of daily living will be appreciated.
DON'T: Suggest that time heals all wounds.The wounds of loss never completely heal, and grief work is more active than this phrase suggests.
DO: Expect future "rough spots",with active attempts at coping with difficult feelings and decisions for months following the loss.
DON'T: Delegate helping to others.Your personal presence and concern will make a difference.
DO: "Be there" for the mourner.There are few rules for helping aside from openness and caring.
DON'T: Say, " I know how you feel."Each griever's experience of grief is unique, so invite the mourner to share his or her feelings, rather than presuming that you know what the issues are for that person.
DO: Talk about your own losses and how you adapted to them. Although the mourner's coping style may be different from your own, your self-disclosure will help.
DON'T: Use hackneyed consolation,by saying "There are other fish in the sea", or "God works in mysterious ways". This only convinces the mourner that you do not care enough to understand.
DO: Use appropriate physical contact-like an arm around the shoulder or a hug-when words fail. Learn to be comfortable with shared silence, rather than chattering away in an attempt to cheer the person up.
DON'T: Try to hurry the person through griefby urging that he or she get busy, give away the deceased's possessions, etc. Grief work takes time and patience and cannot be done on a fixed schedule.
DO: Be patient with the griever's story,and allow him or her to share memories of the lost loved one. This fosters a healthy continuity as the person orients to a changed future.
*Robert A. Neimeyer "Lessons of Loss, A Guide to Coping, 2000