How To Comfort People When Someone Dies

April 23, 2014 — 6 Comments

Death hits every person and every family.  Even if you are young, you will know people who will lose someone special to them.  It is one of life’s hardest experiences and it comes to us all.  Knowing how to care for someone during a loss is not just a skill for ministers and chaplains.  It is for all of us.

Ministry to the Grieving

Ministry to the Grieving

Here are some helpful suggestions as you respond to the loss of others…

At the moments right after the loss…

  1. Find a way to quickly respond.  Make a phone call or pay them a quick visit.  Depending on how close your relationship to them is will determine the length or depth of such a contact.  Responding quickly lets them know your care and your care right now.
  2. See if there is anything you can do for the family.  Don’t be pushy about this if there is no obvious thing you can do.  Just gently let your willingness be known.

When visiting the funeral home…

Some people are uncomfortable with funeral homes.  Perhaps it is because of all those crazy spooky movies Hollywood has cranked out.  But funeral homes are not scary places.  They tend to be warm atmospheres with caring staffs.

When people visit a funeral home they do so to affirm a family in loss.  In fact, some of life’s most meaningful moments or most loving expressions of concern can find their expression in the context of a funeral home.  So don’t be nervous about going.

Usually at the Funeral Home there will be some sort of “visitation,” a time when you can come and visit the family.  This is a perfect time for you to visit and extend your sympathy.

Here are some suggestions when you do…

Things best not to say…

  1. “They are better off” or “They are in a better place.”  It is ok if the person suffering the loss says this.  You can affirm it when they do.  And listen, such a statement might be very true.  But that does not mean that the person suffering the loss is ready to see it that way.
  2. “I know exactly what you are going through.”  This can strike people the wrong way.  Of course it might be somewhat true.  All of us have some common experiences.  But even if it is in part true it generally comes off as insulting.
  3. Don’t get philosophical.  You don’t need to try to answer the question of why this has happened.  Doing so does nothing to change the fact that they are hurting.  They need your compassion more than your answers.
  4. Don’t project your situation onto theirs.  It is always best that you don’t start comparing your hurt or pain with theirs.  When you do you communicate that you are more interested in yourself than in them.  Focus on them and their loss.

Some things good to do…

  1. Be there!  Just coming to see them speaks volumes.  Giving them a hug or handshake or sharing with them a kind word is huge.  Your presence is powerful.
  2. You can say, “So sorry for your loss.”  This is true and speaks volumes.
  3. You can send flowers or a memorial gift.  You don’t need to feel obligated to do this for everyone who has a loss, but if you enjoy giving gifts this is a great thing to do.  Flowers are beautiful and often the loved ones provide an opportunity for people to make monetary gifts in memory of their loved one to some church or charity.  It is an option for you if you feel inclined.

What about after the funeral…

The most difficult time of grief is often after the funeral when life is expected to get back to normal.  This is a great time for you to continue your ministry to them.  Sympathy cards, phone calls, and meals can all be ways to continue your support and kindness.

Challenge:  Next time someone you know suffers such a loss, plan on jumping in and showing that you care.

Question:  What are other ways you can show support when someone losses a loved one?  Share them with us.  You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Greg Faulls

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6 responses to How To Comfort People When Someone Dies

  1. Glenita Roberts April 23, 2014 at 11:23 am

    If you were acquainted with the person who has passed away, sharing memories of that person with the family often brings comfort. Also sharing how that person had a positive impact on your life could also be positive. Often just a simple and warm hug means more than words.

  2. Montie & Norma April 25, 2014 at 5:02 am

    Pastor,
    One of our favorites is to give a restaurant gift certificate with a note for them when things calm down to enjoy a meal and reflect back on the good memories that they had with that person or family member.

  3. Joanna Shockley April 27, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Many times your presence is more valuable than words. Just listen, just be there. In a week or two, show up again, just to let them know you care.

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