What do you say to someone who is mourning the sudden death of a loved one or close friend?
Dennis D. Ashton, of LDS Family Services' Farmington office, says people need to realize that someone who has suffered a loss needs to feel grief and needs to mourn. Well-meaning people may feel the need to give the "why" of a loss instead of asking what they can do to help the person through the loss.
He refers to a quotation from William Shakespeare's works: "Everyone can master a grief but he that has it." Many of those in mourning are thinking of the "what ifs" what if I had told him to take a different route to the store? What if she had left five minutes earlier? And so on.
Ashton, who co-wrote "Jesus Wept: Understanding and Enduring Loss" with his wife, Joyce, says loss is at the core of mourning, and the most common scenario is loneliness.
In their book, the Ashtons say we should avoid telling the bereaved how they should feel. Other things to avoid saying include: "We know how you feel"; "Call us if you need anything"; "Put it behind you, get on with your life"; "There are worse things"; "Be strong, keep your chin up"; or "Don't cry." Also, the Ashtons write, "Don't tell them other stories of tragedy and catastrophe when they are already feeling vulnerable."
The Ashtons offer some tips for what people can do and say:
• Acknowledge their loss as soon as possible with a call, card, flowers or another kind gesture.
• Provide their basic life chores, such as cleaning, laundry, yard work, child care and cooking food.
• Attend the funeral of their loved one which shows love, care and concern.
• If we don't know what to say, a simple statement such as "I'm sorry you are having to go through this" is usually enough.
• Be available to talk and reminisce about their loved one, but don't pry or ask for specific details.
• Allow them to cry.
• Most of all, the Ashtons write, "remember we can send ourselves instead of a card."
"The human spirit is very resilient," Dennis Ashton said, and most individuals find a way to bring peace to their lives. Getting understanding and help from those close to them is one of the keys to that process.