Losing a family member or loved one is something we’re all likely to experience in our lifetime. If you’ve already experienced this type of loss, do you remember how you felt? Do you remember observing how someone else close to you felt after they experienced a loss? The truth about loss is that it can affect each of us, and our brains, in unique ways.
In one study, bereavement proved to affect older adults by making them more anxious, stressed, and depressed. These adults performed poorly when asked to take tests that required attention and focus. Grief actually caused a decrease in certain functions because of the great stress it placed people under. It can even affect how you make plans and decisions, and it affects your emotions in an unpredictable manner.
Grief won’t always make itself obvious to others. So how can you know if a friend or loved one is grieving, or how can you know for yourself that your grief is affecting you? You can look for these signs that someone is grieving.
- They are irritable
- They feel emotionally numb
- They are preoccupied or detached from their surroundings
- They are bitter
Grief can also affect people physically. A grieving person may show these physical symptoms.
- They are having digestive issues
- They are fatigued
- They have headaches
- They are experiencing chest pain or sore muscles
If you are experiencing these symptoms, we empathize with you and hope you have a support system to help you through the difficult time. If you know someone who is experiencing these symptoms, you can be the support system they need to get through the sorrow. One of the best ways to support someone through their grief can be through words of comfort
What Are the Best Things You Can Say When Someone Passes Away?
You may be gifted with the right words, or you may find speaking to people a little difficult. No matter how eloquent you think you are (or aren’t), comforting someone who is grieving is not an easy task, and it can be daunting to avoid saying the wrong thing.
What can you say to help someone cope or feel better about circumstances that are out of their control? These phrases below may be a bit generic, but if you have the right intentions or sentiments behind them, you will find that you can be the support system your grieving friend or loved one needs to help them carry the burden.
I’m Here for You
No matter what your acquaintance, friend, or loved one is experiencing, you are letting them know that you’re there and offering your deepest sympathy. Maybe someone needs you to be with them while they do errands. Maybe they need you to take a drive with them. Having someone you trust close to you while you’re grieving can bring great comfort and help you work through the grief.
Is There Anything I Can Do for You?
Sometimes a great loss will keep someone from completing basic tasks. A person in immense emotional pain and sadness may find it difficult to get up and brush their teeth, eat a meal, or clean their home. If you want to help someone in pain during a time of loss, this is a great question to ask them.
Make sure to show the person you’re asking that you genuinely want to help them. Running an errand or bringing a cooked meal does so much more than just striking something off a to-do list; it shows the bereaved person that you care for them and want to help them.
I’m Thinking of You
Grief can make a mourner feel isolated and detached from the rest of the world. Despite grief being a universal experience, it can make someone want to hide away and become invisible during a tough time. Grief makes you feel lonely, and it makes you wonder if anyone will ever understand your pain.
But telling someone you’re thinking of them while they’re grieving shows them that you haven’t forgotten them. You are cheering them on from the sidelines, and you’re ready to help and offer condolences however you can. Grief may be isolating, but having a support system definitely makes for some good company and inspiration. A simple text message or phone call is all it takes.
Do You Want To Talk About It?
Talking through your emotions can actually help you really understand how you’re feeling. And sometimes, it’s just nice to tell someone how you’re feeling. Being a listening ear for your friend or loved one could help them feel a lot less stress or anxiety.
Say Nothing at All
Maybe you don’t have to say anything to someone who just experienced loss. Maybe you simply have to be present and let them feel less alone with you there. Saying nothing but giving your friend or loved one a kind form of physical contact—a hug, a pat on the back, letting them lean on your shoulder—is still a genuine form of comfort, and your caring thoughts will be felt. Being physically there for them may result in raw emotions on display, but the experience will help them heal. All you have to do is be there and let them speak when they’re ready.
What Are the Best Things You Can Say When You’re Experiencing Loss?
What if you’re the one who lost a loved one? You may be feeling the isolation that grief comes with, or you may find yourself feeling more stressed and anxious. You have to remember that even though you’re the one grieving, you can still be the one to say something.
You can ask for help, or you can talk through your emotions. Don’t limit your support system, and remember to be kind to yourself during the grieving process.
Can I Talk to You?
Never feel afraid to talk to someone about what you’re going through! If you feel that you need help, reach out for help. You might have friends and family that want to help you, but they don’t know how.
If talking will help you, ask for someone to listen. Sometimes people intend to help, but they don’t know how, so they don’t know how to offer their help. If you communicate what you want, you’ll be doing yourself a favor.
Could I Have Some Time to Myself?
You could be lucky enough to have people who flood you with support, but sometimes it can feel suffocating. Don’t be afraid to ask for a little space if this happens. Yes, grief can make you feel isolated. But sometimes you need some time to yourself to heal.
Being by yourself isn’t a bad thing; there are many healing activities you can do while by yourself. You can meditate, write, exercise, work on some art, and so much more. Give yourself some room to breathe, but make sure you still reach out to others!
I’m Not Fine
It’s okay to feel like you’re falling apart inside. It would be cruel to yourself to feel ashamed of your pain after losing a wonderful person. One of the hardest things to admit is that you’re struggling, but the support system you gain access to is worth admitting your struggles.
Your friends and loved ones want to be there for you, so being honest about how you feel will benefit everyone involved in the healing process. You have an incredible resource ready and willing to help you with your pain, but you have to be brave enough to reach out to your friends and family and ask for help.
Meghan Markle once said that sharing how we truly feel makes grief feel lighter; it helps everyone in the healing process find solace. The one thing you can be certain of when grieving is that reaching out for support or being the support for someone else brings people closer together.
Losing a loved one is no pleasant experience, but it doesn’t have to be a lonely experience. Everyone is bound to feel a personal loss, so it’s important that we’re all here for each other during personal tragedies.
Wrapping It Up
If you know someone who is suffering from a loss, or if you are suffering from a loss, you can use these phrases either in person or in a condolence card to help find the support you need. It’s important to remember that your feelings are valid, and you deserve kindness and empathy as you heal.
You and the people around you can heal together as you remember the life and legacy of the one you lost. Remember that losing someone doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate their life! You can memorialize your loved ones by sharing their story, supporting each other, and sharing kind words.
One of the beauties of life is seeing the human connections people will make, even in the midst of tragedy. So, if you’re planning to help someone through the grieving process, or if you’re in need of help, go out and use these phrases. You’ll find that help is closer than you think.
Relationships Between Bereavement and Cognitive Functioning in Older Adults | PubMed
How the Brain Responds to Grief Can Change Who We Are | Aeon